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More Grandparents Connecting With Grandkids Through Social Media

Use of online communication growing among 65+

Sanny Moore, checks her Facebook accountto keep track of far-off family members. AARP Missouri

Sanny Moore, 79, of St. Louis, checks Facebook daily to keep track of far-off family members. AARP Missouri is training volunteers on how to use Facebook so they can spread the word about issues of interest to members. — Whitney Curtis

Every morning, Rosalie Espino logs onto the computer at her home in suburban Kansas City and checks her Facebook account.

"It's the only way I get to see pictures of my family," said Espino, 69, a retiree from the Federal Reserve Bank. Her four grandchildren in Texas and Missouri are frequent users of Facebook, the free online networking service where users can post messages and photos for other users they accept as "friends."

See also: Facebook from A to Z.

So Espino finds out about them by looking over their cyber-shoulders.

"They hate to take pictures for Grandma, but they love to take pictures for their friends," she said with a chuckle.

Just a few years ago, Espino would have been an anomaly among older Americans, who have generally been slower to take up computers, the Internet and social networking. But they are catching up.

A survey earlier this year by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project found that for the first time, more than half of adults 65 and older are online. One in three of them uses social networking sites such as Facebook, Skype or Twitter.

A visual "phone call"

Many extended families have members scattered across the country or the globe. Grandparents, in particular, find they can shrink that distance through Skype, a free Internet service that turns a computer into a video phone.

"It was great when I wanted to see something special from my grandkids, like my granddaughter dressed up for her prom or seeing a new baby," Espino said of Skype.

Like Espino, Sanny Moore, 79, of St. Louis, checks her Facebook account mainly to keep track of family all over the country. But she doesn't post much about herself.

"I just don't have a real interest in posting my day-to-day activities," she said. "I just don't take the time."

Espino, too, is somewhat baffled by family members who seem to post anything and everything about themselves for the world to see.

"Too much information," she said.

Indeed, many older people fear the loss of their privacy or worse — identity theft. That's one reason many have been reluctant to jump on the social media bandwagon.

"People are worried: Is my security going to be breached?" said Marvin Sands, 71, of Independence, the new social media volunteer for AARP Missouri.

Next: Tips for online security. »

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