Social media and the future of long-term care

I knew a sea change in social communications had taken place, not when the mainstream media reported it, but when my mother—at 75 years young, a tech-holdout who has resisted all attempts by her children to join the computer age—launched her own Facebook page earlier this year. This was just weeks after she mastered basic e-mail. Suddenly, Mom’s a prolific poster (raising the occasional eyebrow among her more liberal family and friends), boldly weighing in on everything from healthcare reform and foreign relations to global warming (“There’s no such thing!”) and PETA.

Social media has given my mother a voice and, more importantly, a community. Physical limitations confine her to the house more than she’d like, but the Internet allows her to keep up with all the comings and goings of our large, spread-out clan and the rest of the world.

Mom is among the rapidly growing population of seniors embracing social media. While its usage has grown dramatically across all age groups, in the past year the number of seniors tapping social networking sites has increased the most, reports the Pew Research Center in its Internet & Americans Project. Social networking use among Internet users ages 50 and older has nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010.

While your current and future residents are jumping on the social media bandwagon, what are you doing to engage your audience—whether it be residents and their families, the larger community, your staff and potential employees?

In the October issue of Long-Term Living, Editor Kevin Kolus reports on the impact of social media on the senior care community—touching on everything from branding and marketing to staff recruitment and resident engagement. The issue also examines important legal ramifications of social media usage.

So be sure to check out the issue, and join Long-Term Living’s own social media conversation via LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. I’ll be blogging and tweeting from next week’s American Health Care Association conference in Long Beach, California. Stay tuned…and connected.

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