Text, Post, Tweet: Digital Communications 101 For Seniors

Who says posts, texts and tweets are for millennials only? In a modern world filled with 24/7 access to anyone with an internet connection, we no longer have an excuse not to keep in touch – especially with those close to us.

The good news is, even seniors who prefer pen and paper or email can still be tech-savvy communicators. Here are a few tips to help you conquer online communication and social channels and stay connected with your kids and grandkids.

Texts and Chats

The three easiest and quickest ways to communicate digitally are through text, chat and email. Here’s the download:


The easiest and quickest way to send and receive messages, photos, videos and audio messages is via texting. But you probably already know that. Recent research by mobile research company Mosio found that the “45-65 age group is the fastest growing demographic of mobile phone users and texters.”

But did you also know that smartphone users are sending and receiving five times as many texts compared to phone calls each day? In total, Americans spend about 26 minutes a day texting, compared to spending about six minutes a day on voice calls. So, if you want to reach your loved ones quickly, aside from calling them, texting is the way to go.

Want to text but don’t have a cell phone? Google Voice provides you with a free phone number you can use to make coast-to-coast calls at no charge via your computer. Sign in to Google Voice, type in the number you want to dial and Google then routes the call to your own home phone. Bonus: your Google Voice number also works for sending and receiving free text messages within the United States, although it restricts your messages to text only (no photos or video). Smartphone and tablet users can also benefit from Google Voice, using data plan coverage instead of cellphone minutes or racking up text fees

Textfree, much like Google Voice, gives iPhone, iPod, iPad and Android users a phone number from which you can send and receive free text messages. You can also access Textfree through a standard Web browser on your computer. Textfree allows picture messaging and provides texting to more than 25 countries, making it a good choice for contacting friends and family abroad.

Google Chat

Google Chat is a free instant messaging program that you access through a Google account (Gmail, Google+) on your computer. It allows you to communicate in real time with other family members, friends and colleagues who have a Google account. Lots of businesses and and on-the-go millennials use Chat regularly, so if you’re a senior that wants to keep up with your mobile grand children, this is a great option!

It’s easy and quick. Like texting, you type and send your message; the recipient reads and types back. If you already have a Google account, all you need to do to chat is sign in, invite your friends, and start a chat. If you’d like to try Gmail, it’s easy to sign up! In addition to instant messaging, you can also chat face to face with up to nine people as well as make phone calls. Learn how to make voice and video chats.


Email has been around since 1965, according to most historians and Internet experts. Back then sending an email involved composing a message and placing it in a directory so that the intended recipient could see it the next time he or she logged onto the computer. Today, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t email for both personal and business to share a vast array of information and attachments.

If you want to hear back from your adult children (maybe those in their 30s or 40s), your email will likely garner a relatively quick response – within 24 to 48 hours. Want to say “Hi” to your grandchildren or invite them out? Better to go a quicker route, such as texting or chatting.

You can customize your email by adding a signature line that shows up at the bottom of every email you send. It can include text, such as your name, address, phone number and email address, as well as a favorite image or photo. Here are “how tos” for setting up your own signature in Outlook, Yahoo or Gmail.

Social Media Rundown

Beyond the day-to-day digital communication techniques described above, there are “social media platforms,” which are websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.

This is where your grandchildren – and some younger adults – live! If you want to see their latest pictures, find out what activities and groups they are involved in, be privy to their latest accolades and achievements, here are a few of the top social media platforms being used by the younger generations. You don’t need to use them all, but one or two may help you better engage with your younger loved ones.

  • Facebook – is a popular free social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages, and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. According to statistics from the Nielsen Group, Internet users within the United States spend more time on Facebook than any other website. While this may be true, the majority of Facebook users are age 29-34, so probably not the best way to connect with your teen grandson or your 45-year-old daughter, although everyone has their own social media preference.
  • Pinterest –  is a social curation website for sharing and categorizing images found online. Pinterest requires brief descriptions, but the main focus of the site is visual. Clicking on an image will take you to the original source, so, for example, if you click on a picture of a pair of shoes, you might be taken to a site where you can purchase them. An image of blueberry pancakes might take you to the recipe; a picture of a whimsical birdhouse might take you to the instructions. Crafters, DIYers, and folks who just want to share their own collage of creativity tend to be Pinterest users.
  • Twitter – is a free microblogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short posts (140 characters or less) called tweets. Twitter members can broadcast tweets and follow other users’ tweets by using multiple platforms (e.g., Facebook, Instagram) and devices (e.g., iPhone, tablet or computer). Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, where members need to approve social connections, the defaults for Twitter are public, meaning anyone can follow anyone. Twitter is most popular among users ages 18-34.
  • Instagram – is a social networking app made for sharing photos and videos from a smartphone. Similar to Facebook or Twitter, everyone who creates an Instagram account has a profile and a news feed. When you post a photo or video on Instagram, it will be displayed on your profile. Other users who follow you (which is up to you to allow) will see your posts in their own feed. Likewise, you’ll see posts from other users who you choose to follow. The emphasis of this platform is on mobile use and visual sharing. Just like other social networks, you can interact with other users on Instagram by following them, being followed by them, commenting, liking, tagging and private messaging. Current statistics show that women favor Instagram over men, and 90% of users are younger than 35.
  • Snapchat – This social network/chat app is primarily used by teens and millenials, and within that group has grown more popular than Twitter or Pinterest. Its core purpose is to send images and short videos that disappear between 1 and 10 seconds after the recipient opens and views them. You can also use Lenses, Filters, Geo-Filters, Stickers, Emoji, text and a drawing tool to personalize them more. Most of these trend toward the silly side of things. Everyone on Snapchat has a “Story” to which they can post image and video “Snaps”. Anyone on your “Friends” list can see your Story, much like a Facebook or Instagram feed. Each Snap sent to the Story stays live for 24 hours before it disappears. A lot of popular celebrities use Snapchat’s Stories.

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