Social Web sites for seniors?
January 29, 2008 4:01 PM   Subscribe

My mother is 69 years old and uses a computer for email, occasionally to play scrabble with my brother-in-law across the country, listen to/find music, view photos and videos of her grandchildren, and to surf the Web. Other than that, she becomes easily frustrated learning new things on the computer. However, she's disabled, so she spends much of her time on the computer. I'd like to introduce her to some new, social-enhancing activities online but aside from Second Life and Facebook, I'm coming up empty.

I don't think she'll have patience for, or appreciate the value of MySpace or Facebook -- not that those appeal to her demographic. So as far as typical friend-of-a-friend social networks, I don't think that'll be her bag. Then there are the Second Life genre 'social' expeirences -- but again, with these I think her attention-span will crash right around the time her computer does. What else does that leave? Games? What else? She's into the arts, theater, symphony, volunteering. She used to be into travel. She's originally from South America and speaks Spanish if that sparks any ideas.

Thank you so much for any suggestions!
posted by pallen123 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
Try to find a message board or Yahoo group that revolves around one of her interests -- it sounds like her interests aren't too esoteric, so I bet you'll find a handful that she might like to participate in.

If your mom is a knitter and/or crocheter, there's Ravelry, which is like MySpace for those who love the fiber arts.
posted by kitty teeth at 4:09 PM on January 29, 2008

My 60-something easily frustrated Mom just joined Facebook today (Oy!) and she has found other family members on it and uses it to share photos with them and other people who might not also be on Flickr, etc. It's a little overbusy and has a lot of younger people on it, but I'd make sure you don't totally discount it just because of your Mom's age. There are a lot of people her age on it, they are just not in the majority.

Otherwise I agree that Yahoo Groups or even a Q&A site where she can share her experiences (Yahoo Answers, here even) might be a good way to help her find a way to feel like she's valued in a new community. Also if she's into the disability community a lot, there are many good sites for the disabled -- particularly in the UK -- where she might find like minded people just to chat and interact with. I don't have experience with any particular one but they're Googleable in the usual places.
posted by jessamyn at 4:15 PM on January 29, 2008

Show her how to search for things in spanish on google, like Spanish-language newspapers. I quite often read Spain's El Pais for news there. If she's into travel and the like, maybe something like the Flickr photo site would be useful, she can comment and there are forums and groups for things. I don't know if she takes photos, but if she has a digital camera she can upload them and join communities there and she can find photos from all over the world, perhaps discuss them in the comments with the photographers.

Aside from that, there are blogs for everything under the sun, maybe do a quick search for those relating to her interests and put bookmarks in her favorites folder. My mother has found quite a large quilting community online and buys/sells/trades sewing machines and quilting materials and occasionally goes to quilting camps.
posted by Jhoosier at 4:19 PM on January 29, 2008

Puzzle Pirates?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:31 PM on January 29, 2008

WoW account. Your mom sounds like she has a Paladin inside waiting to get out.
posted by baphomet at 4:49 PM on January 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

MSN Groups are categorized by interest. I've seen several very active groups on MSN that are populated by older ladies who are in the same situation as your mother. I hope she finds something she likes!
posted by amyms at 4:52 PM on January 29, 2008

My mom and grandparents love Webkinz. They originally got into it to play with my kids online, but they seriously enjoy the games.
posted by Biblio at 4:54 PM on January 29, 2008

My mom got into doing geneology on the web. She has "met" tons of people and likes searching for relatives for other people as well as for our family. There are lots of sites to get started and bulletin board communities.
posted by maxg94 at 5:13 PM on January 29, 2008

Nthing finding a message board or mailing list of interest to her. My mom is in her early 70s, and originally just learned to play Spider Solitaire and read/write email on her computer. When she was dx'd with a meningioma, she asked me how to find more information on it using her computer. While searching, I found a mailing list based out of Johns Hopkins of other meningioma patients. I signed her up, and at first she chatted with others about brain tumors, but over time, found folks on there with similar interests (they had cats, crabby husbands, whatever) and started emailing them offlist. She now has several dedicated email pen-pals, and they swap recipes and grandchildren photos and other stuff just like a weekly coffee klatsch. I'm sure there's a message board or online group of symphony enthusiasts or even who hail from her home country that she'd love to correspond with.
posted by Oriole Adams at 5:44 PM on January 29, 2008 is a well-rounded community site designed for folks over 50. It features social networking, blogging, plentiful discussion groups, photo- and video-sharing, "brain-training"-style games, an online dating service, and plenty of related health and lifestyle information. I don't know much about it beyond the commercials they aired a few months ago and a cursory glance at their front page, but it sounds like they cover pretty much anything she'd want to do online in a senior-centric environment.

Good luck!
posted by Rhaomi at 6:43 PM on January 29, 2008

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