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  • Francine Harris

The Social Grandma

A funny thing happened on the way to our morning coffee. Walking behind a couple of powerwalking grandmas, we overheard an exchange that went along something like this…

“Did you Skype with the kids last night? “The kids posted the best pictures on Instagram.” “We were tweeting all through the ‘The Voice’ last night, they loved it.” “It’s a good thing that they friended me on Facebook – I got to see all their Spring Break pics.”

They knew the shorthand, they had the lingo down. We were intrigued enough to interrupt. Their response, “If we didn’t get onboard, they’d forget us!” Some grandparents prefer traditional modes of contact, but in an increasingly mobile world, in which ‘tweens and teens have evolved past phones to communicate with one another via text messages and Facebook "status updates," it may be hard to keep up with the kids any other way — especially in families separated by great distances.

So every morning, Laura Kryzwicki logs onto the computer at her home and checks her Facebook and Twitter accounts. "It's the only way I get to see pictures of my family," said Kryzwicki, 69, a retiree from Ford Motor Co. Her four grandchildren in Pennsylvania and Florida are frequent users of Twitter and Instagram. "I tried e-mails," she says, "but they were infrequent and had a tone of 'Here's a note to Grandma' — telling me what I would want to hear." Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer her a window onto her granddaughter's world. She can learn who her grandkids’ close friends are and see photos of them. She can see the news the girl exchanges with her peers and get an unfiltered sense of what matters in her life.

So aside from being extremely impressed with their technology skills, we were more impressed with their willingness to engage and become a part of the conversation. They didn’t let discomfort or fear of change get in their way. They embraced technology and social media as tools to help them stay relevant in their kids’ and grandkids’ lives.

What’s surprising to us is that these grandmas are not alone - the percentage of U.S. senior citizens (defined as those aged 65 and older) using Facebook and other social networks continues to increase. Overall, 59 percent of seniors go online, up from 53 percent last year. Meanwhile, in the business world, only 47% CEOs are on social media? Can that be? Can it be possible that grandparents are far more engaged and relevant than an executive? Call us baffled.

Meanwhile, our grandmas had some parting advice. Regarding social media and the grandkids? If they say no, don't take it personally; everyone needs their own space. But if a grandchild invites you online, Kryzwicki says, "Jump right in!"

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