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Social Media: A Helpful Guide for The Elderly Part 1

Posted by Jamie McKay on October 23, 2020

Blue tinted background of an elderly person using a laptop with the text "Social Media: A Guide for the Elderly Part One" with the Facebook, Twitter and NHS logos at the bottom

Nowadays with everything going digital, having access to social media can be greatly beneficial to you, with a whole world of communities you can explore with people you can keep connected to all across the world. That's why we've written a handy guide that gives you a briefing of some apps and websites you can use!


With over 2 billion users, Facebook is known for being the biggest and most widely used social media platform in the world.

It is a great way to keep in touch with friends and relatives wherever they may be across the world. If you’ve met someone, the chances are that they have a Facebook account!

You can easily see what your grandchildren have been up to and give them a message, discover what friends are up to and share your own memories and posts too, which in turn lets your friends know what you’re up to!

Facebook is also a good way to catch up with news and local community groups. Most towns or villages have a local group where people can share news, and the kind of info you used to get from your local weekly newspaper, but this time it is constantly being updated.

There’s groups for all kinds of special interests that are constantly getting updated including birdwatching, stamp collecting, fans of your favourite TV show, anything you can think of!

The easiest way to join is to sign up (it is free) and then find one of your close family members or friends. You can then ‘add’ them as a friend, then you get to see what they have posted on Facebook.

The main screen of your Facebook is your news feed, this will show you updates from anyone you have added as a friend, plus any activity from other groups on Facebook you choose to follow. For example, below is the Ability Superstore page. The main section has updates that people have posted and, on the right, you can see other pages that we follow. So, if they post anything, we can see it in our news feed.

Example of a post in a Facebook feed

 We mentioned above that Facebook is good for catching up with news, but because anyone can pretty much post anything on the platform, it can get tricky to distinguish real news from “fake news”.

A good rule of thumb is if the news is from an established outlet like the BBC or Sky News, which pages have a blue tick next to their name to “verify” them, then the content is genuine!

Another problem on Facebook is their “algorithms”, which you may be surprised to know isn’t a medical condition!

Basically, algorithms are how websites decide what to show you. One example is on Amazon when they suggest products that might be of interest to you, or Netflix when it suggests programmes you might want to watch.

Facebook’s algorithm used to show your news feed in chronological order, now their algorithm decides what to show based on who you interact with the most and what they think you will like.

So, it can feel a bit like you are channel hopping on the TV but someone else has the remote control!


If you think of Facebook as a way to keep in contact with your friends and family, then Twitter (now being rebranded as X under Elon Musk's Bond villain-like social media empire) is a way of seeing emerging news stories and interacting with celebs and companies. Let’s have a glance at what it looks like below:

the image shows the home screen of Twitter

Just like Facebook, the main part of your screen is taken up by the Twitter news feed. At the top is the text box where you can type stuff (like the Facebook status). On the left is your own menu and on the right is ‘what’s happening’ with ‘news’ updates.

Unlike Facebook where you ‘add’ friends, on Twitter you ‘follow’ people, which means you get to see their posts in your feed. For example, you can see that we follow @BBCArchive (every Twitter account has ‘@’ at the beginning).

Where Twitter has come into its own is the # symbol or “hashtag”.

Here’s an example, on Christmas Day 2021, the comedian Sarah Millican created a hashtag called #joinin.

This was to help people who were spending Christmas alone or felt isolated so they could feel part of a community. If you type #joinin in the search bar you will see every post with that subject and if you post, so will everybody else.

The Great British Bake Off is an incredibly popular show and their hashtag lets thousands of people watch together and tweet about it using #GBBO. So, even if you are watching alone it can feel like you are watching with lots of friends.

When you start using Twitter it can feel a bit like shouting into the wind, but if you find a hashtag that you like, then you will soon find that you are interacting with like-minded people in no time at all!

the image shows the #gbbo on Twitter

The NHS Goes Digital

You might have noticed some branches of NHS hospitals have stopped sending letters to your address in favour of a text or an email containing all your appointment details. They have also made a streamlined way of ordering repeat prescriptions with the NHS app.

This was a frightening transition for some of us, as some have no idea how to use these things!

But, by making an account on the NHS app, you can:

  • get your NHS COVID Pass
  • order repeat prescriptions
  • book and manage appointments
  • get health information and advice
  • view your health record securely
  • view your NHS number

And if your phone isn’t “smart” enough to download it, you can always access the NHS app website instead.

Your NHS COVID Pass will come in the form of a QR code.

So, What Is A QR Code and What Do We Do?

A ‘Quick Read Code’ (QR code) is a “picture” that when scanned by a smartphone can send or receive some information instantly (it’s very similar to a barcode which we are more used to seeing on the side of a baked bean can which is scanned at the till to tot up the price of the shopping!)

For example, you may go to a restaurant or bar where there are QR Codes on the menus or the tables. When you scan these, they might take you to a web page of the menu where you can order food instantly.

Public transport services have also incorporated QR codes you can scan that contain information on scheduling and available tickets.

the image shows a mobile phone scanning a QR code


Speaking of public transport, with the news of ticket offices being closed across the country in favour of digital tickets bought on apps such as Trainline, there's never been a better time to keep brushed up on your apps and websites!

Top Tips

While the prospect of navigating a new digital world can be exciting, it's important to keep your wits about you as there can be some conniving con artists and scammers looking to rid you of your account details, or worse your money!

Ability Superstore recommends that you:

  • Never share your password with anyone.
  • Use a strong password with numbers, symbols and no personal info. The more complicated your password, the better as this prevents someone guessing it!
  • Use privacy settings on your accounts, which means you can adjust exactly who gets to see your posts, in this case your Facebook friends or Twitter followers.
  • Be careful for anyone impersonating famous faces - always check for the blue verified tick!
  • Never directly message someone your bank card information, or click on links from anyone pretending to be your bank. Your bank will never ask for your PIN.

We at Ability Superstore hope you have found Part One of our handy guide useful. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter and you can find Part Two here.