Helping senior citizens learn how to use Facebook

Facebook logoAre you a public librarian, volunteer or ministry leader that needs to help senior citizen groups understand Facebook?  Are you yourself a member of the silver set who is struggling to learn how to keep up with your kids, grand kids, or colleagues on Facebook?  Do you, like me, frequently help your parents out with using Facebook?

I taught two classes recently about Facebook to the retiree continuous learning groups that are affiliated with our university and, consequently, with my library.  When I worked as a public librarian, a main part of my job was teaching weekly computer and technology classes, and seniors almost always made up the majority of my audiences.

I’m not quite sure why I end up working with seniors so much, but this has been the case for much of my life — even as a teen.  I attribute it to the super close relationship I had with my grandparents before they died.  But, for some reason, being able to explain confusing emerging technologies to a generation that never owned computers until well into their adult lives (and often after retirement), just seems to come natural to me.  I consider it a blessing and a calling.

My Class Tools

For the first class, I put together a dozen or so slides for the “big picture” explanation part of my class since it was part of an ongoing social media discussion series.   But, I pretty much ditched the PowerPoint right off the bat and just jumped into the Facebook interface because the class was anxious to “see” how Facebook works.   So, for the second class, I didn’t even bother with slides — I simply talked for about 5-10 minutes giving some background and polling the audience’s existing level of familiarity and use with Facebook.

Since our campus is pushing green initiatives pretty hard, I didn’t print handouts either. Instead, I created a custom library guide for the class, to which they can continuously refer back to when they have a question or forget how to do something while actually using Facebook on their own computer (their club linked to the guide on its website). I purposely packed the guide with good, easy to follow, video tutorials that I embedded from YouTube. And I explained to the class that I continuously update all of my library guides as I discover new content or when there are major changes to an application.

NOTE 9/29/20: I deleted my Facebook for Seniors guide from my library’s guide system this past week. It was very out of date, and would require much more time that I have to update it and keep it up to date. Since my current teaching still focuses on using Facebook for genealogy, and senior citizens are a major demographic in the genealogy community, I will continue to build out teaching materials on my blog relevant to using Facebook for genealogy.

My Pollak Library "Facebook for Seniors" Guide
My Pollak Library “Facebook for Seniors” Guide. Accessible at:

Although it’s already embedded into my library guide, I thought it worthwhile to separately include the Prezi presentation I put together after the class, to help explain the concepts we discussed.

[iframe src=”” height=”400″ width=”550″ frameborder=”0″]

My Class Observations

To help others who work with a similar demographic, I’ve noted the key questions, motivations and tools with which both classes were the most concerned.

Top Motivations Expressed:

  • Staying in closer touch with family — especially grand kids.
  • Sharing photos and video with family and friends.
  • Finding long lost family and friends (especially veterans and classmates).

Top Concerns Expressed:

  • Privacy risks (identify theft and home safety).
  • Computer security risks (viruses, spam, etc.).
  • Becoming overwhelmed with posts from Friends and Pages.
  • Not continuing “to use Facebook wrong” (according to their kids and grand kids), by mistakenly posting things to their Friends walls instead of privately.

Top Tools Requested to Demo and Explain:

  • How to interpret and modify Privacy settings.
  • How to upload photos and videos.
  • How to share videos from YouTube and links to other sites.
  • How to add information to Profiles.
  • How to message someone privately.
  • How to block Farmville and other applications.
  • How to Friend and how to remove Friends.
  • How to find Pages for favorite organizations.

What I found the Most Interesting:

  • They didn’t like that Facebook catches misspellings, yet doesn’t have a dictionary that users can contribute to, like in Microsoft Word.
  • They don’t get why younger generations care about what people ate for lunch, what they are wearing today, or why they feel the need to share every thought they have with the world.
  • They don’t get the concept of adding Friends who aren’t really ones friends.

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16 thoughts on “Helping senior citizens learn how to use Facebook”

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  4. 2 questions please.
    1) is there some way i can take this course
    2) is there some way i can teach this course to seniors in my area? I guess what i am asking is may i access your lesson plan materials and resources. i plan to us ethis to teach seniors at a local community school.

    1. My teaching materials are located in my guide. I didn’t develop a formal lesson plan.

      I am currently developing a self-paced online course that will be free, and which I’ll share here on my blog. I hope to have it done by the end of May 2013.

  5. Thanks for this post! I’m launching a service for helping seniors locally and some of the issues you’ve listed will save me time searching for them.

  6. Your resources are incredibly helpful as I will be preparing a class on facebook for local senior citizens. The list of motivations and concerns is going to serve as a guide when deciding what to discuss and present to them.

  7. The Prezi app link no longer works as of today. It did work fine last night. Says some type of internal error today.

  8. Seems the link on this page to access it no longer works on my IPad. Anyway you post a direct link to the Prezi video, or post it on your You Tube site. I really enjoyed it. I wanted to use it as a teaching tool, at the retirement community.

    1. It’s very possible that Prezi is just not working on an iPad right now. I don’t use Prezi anymore, so haven’t accessed it on an iPad in a very long time. But it works on a web browser.

  9. Cheryl A Jones

    I am going through your information and I just wanted you to know that as a senior person, the first thing I look for is how to print a copy of my great-grandchildren that are put on facebook. I’m still reading!

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