SENIORS TAP INTO FACEBOOK

UA students help residents find new online connection

2011-04-18T00:00:00Z 2011-04-18T15:51:23Z UA students help residents find new online connectionAbigail Richardson For The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

You're never too old to Facebook.

Take, for instance, grandmother Lois Fuller, 74, who used the social network to connect with her grandson serving in the military thousands of miles away.

She took a Facebook class designed by honors students from the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management, who presented the class at Fuller's retirement community, Fellowship Square, on East Broadway.

Fuller learned to explore Facebook profiles, write on walls, upload photos and even see pictures of the barracks and tents where her grandson lives.

"I had written my grandson that I was proud of him," she said. "He is in Afghanistan serving, and he wrote me back. He was so funny. He said, 'And I'm so proud of you, too.' "

Many Fellowship Square residents knew the social networking site exists, but didn't know what it could do.

"All my grandchildren have it and talk about the wall, the poke and all this," said Elsie Hobbs, who volunteers in the computer room. "I just want to know enough so that my head isn't completely buried in the sand."

Hobbs, 89, isn't quite ready to have her own account, but plans to use the Facebook skills she learned to help other residents with their profiles.

About 30 student were involved with the Facebook class, which was an assignment in a required business class at the UA.

Eller student Sam Burns said Facebook can help to bridge the widening communication gap between grandparents and younger generations.

"A lot of people retire in Tucson, but they still have family in other parts of the country, and they don't really interact anymore," said Burns, a 20-year-old junior, who works with seniors regularly.

"That is just growing as the population grows and the world globalizes. There is a lot less interaction between this age group and a few levels down."

Burns said that interaction is "imperative to understanding a family and where you come from. That's the ultimate goal for me in teaching the Facebook course, and that's where I see the benefit in Facebook."

The link between the UA and Fellowship Square was initiated by the students' professor, adjunct lecturer Gail Emily Fey.

"One of my best friends lives out there," she said. Fey called that friend, Elsie Hobbs, her mentor, and said, "When the honors students and I connected, the inspirational light bulb came on."

The students conducted a survey to find out what the residents thought about Facebook. The results were not what they had expected.

"There was a general interest in Facebook, but not necessarily in creating a Facebook account," said Emily Copperud, 20, who served as the team leader and survey analyst. "There are so many people using it and they've heard of it, but they don't know how it relates to them."

Students modified the class to ease residents' fears and clarify misconceptions - many worried that if they joined Facebook, other people would know everything about their personal lives, including their Social Security numbers and credit card information. Reviewing privacy settings was a valuable part of the course.

"The way people made it seem was that they were talking to everybody and all this information is going all over, and I didn't want to do that," said Nycee Randall, who is 85. "I don't want the world to know my business."

Since taking the class, Randall plans to continue to use Facebook to talk to her friends and family.

"The students were informative and knew what they were doing," Randall said. "I really felt like I wanted to stay and do it all day."

Abigail Richardson is a University of Arizona journalism student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at starapprentice@azstarnet.com or 807-7776.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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