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Can Facebook keep you young?

Older adults who balance online and offline social interaction are more likely to live longer

Created date

April 7th, 2017
Four senior adults gathered around a laptop and print materials.

New research confirms that people who have stronger social networks—both online and offline—live longer. 

The study, published in the journal PNAS and based on 12 million social media profiles made available to researchers by Facebook, turned the tables on the longstanding belief by many that increased screen time could be detrimental to our health. While the study itself acknowledges it has “many limitations,” it does point to evidence that a combination of online and offline social interaction is a good balance for better health and a longer life. 

Promoting awareness and connection

Wind Crest, the Erickson Living community in Highlands Ranch, Colo., recognizes the benefits of connecting through Facebook and other social media sites. Each of Erickson Living’s 19 communities located in 11 states has its own Facebook page.

“The Facebook page has two goals: awareness and connection,” says Erin Vernon, social media program manager at Erickson Living. “Through Facebook, we aim to increase engagement and interaction among residents, prospective residents, employees, and family members. Facebook provides the perfect venue to showcase the lifestyle we offer and to invite everyone to connect and come together. Consumers are always more interested in what other customers have to say.”

Visit the Wind Crest Facebook page, and you’ll find interesting stories about the people who live and work at the community, events and programs on campus, and other newsworthy posts. 

“The goal of our Facebook page is to promote the Wind Crest lifestyle, special activities or announcements, and to allow people to see that we are current in our interaction with technology,” says Sales Director Jason Atwell, who created the page. “We even let people know when we have new construction being planned or announced within social media. Of course, we always inform members of our priority list first, so they have the initial opportunity to choose a new home. But the social media outlets are starting to include important messages about timely deadlines.”

Face-to-face from far away

People who live at Wind Crest, prospective residents, employees, family members, local officials, and industry partners regularly chime in on the conversations with likes and shares. 

Resident Patricia Brinkopf frequently likes the posts on Wind Crest’s Facebook page. She has had a personal Facebook page since 2010. 

“I have grandchildren and 20 great-grandbabies. They’re the reason I have Facebook,” she says. Though she doesn’t post her own content, she’s an observer, keeping tabs on her family members and the community she calls home.

“Mostly, I’m looking for pictures of my family. They live all across the U.S.—in L.A., Montrose, and here on both sides of Denver. I have found cousins I haven’t communicated with in a long time, so it’s been kind of fun,” she says.

Patricia spends about 45 minutes a day browsing Facebook, typically in the evenings before she settles in for bed. She curls up on the couch with her tablet in her one-bedroom, corner apartment home and scrolls her newsfeed, sometimes messaging family members or commenting on their posts.  

She’s getting into the habit of checking Facebook in the mornings, too, but during the day she doesn’t have time to get online. “I’m pretty active in the community and outside because I lived across County Line Road in Centennial,” she says.

Online-offline balance

As the social media study alludes, a balance between online and offline interaction could positively influence health and lifespan. Patricia keeps that balance by having lunch with friends, participating in on- and off-site Bible study groups and Stevens Ministry, attending church, and volunteering for campus committees. “I try to support whatever activities are being done by folks in our building,” she says.

Like her peers, Patricia has witnessed the evolution of communication technology throughout her lifetime. Now, instead of handwriting letters, she can send a quick text or email. And Facebook, in particular, helps her stay in touch with growing great-grandchildren, “because they do grow up so fast. I see the photos their moms post on Facebook of them each month. Otherwise, I would just not know because we just don’t write letters anymore,” she says.

And while she does appreciate technology—she sticks to email, text, and Facebook on her smartphone, tablet, or MacBook—she says, “I’m sorry that letter-writing is going out, and I think on thank-you notes we’re missing the boat a little bit.”

Patricia says she’ll stick to what she knows for now, but should she desire to branch out to other social media sites, she can start with Erickson Living. In addition to the community pages, Erickson Living has a a corporate social presence on Facebook as well as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn.