REwatch: Using social media to foster a strong sense of community

2014-06-07T08:00:00Z 2014-06-09T10:47:07Z REwatch: Using social media to foster a strong sense of communityMichelle Krueger Times Columnist
June 07, 2014 8:00 am  • 

We’ve all enjoyed the commercial where “Offline Over-Sharer” Beatrice posts her vacation photos on her living room wall and “unfriends” the woman sitting on her couch who says, “That’s not how it works. That’s not how any of this works.”

Regardless of where they fall on the social media spectrum, baby boomers are embracing technology. In fact, people over the age of 65 are the fastest growing group on social media, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

“In our first survey in March of 2000, only about a sixth of older Americans were using the Internet,” the group’s director Lee Rainie said on an NPR News broadcast in November of 2013. “Now it’s more than half. And the big milestone, the breakthrough came last year when more than 50 percent became Internet users.”

These days, seniors are using the Internet for much more than an email account. They are searching on Google and keeping in touch with family and friends on Facebook, Twitter and Skype. They are sharing their own personal style and favorite recipes on Pinterest and telling their stories in blogs.

In an effort to keep up with tech-savvy homeowners, Wilcox Communities is taking neighborhood building to a whole new virtual level.

On-site and now online, the residential development company emphasizes lifestyle and social interaction among its residents. Beyond designing beautiful homes and friendly neighborhoods aimed at creating a strong sense of community, the company is helping residents extend that same sense of community online by providing social networking sites devoted to each of its communities. These include the Courtyards at Pepper Creek and Villas at Vale Park in Valparaiso.

The decision to leverage individual community-based social networking sites came after Wilcox Communities noticed the power that social sites have for bringing residents together.

“We place a lot of emphasis on designing and building entire communities that help people interact with each other, and providing a way to engage in the online social space seemed like a natural complement to those goals,” said Leigh Nevers Wilcox VP of Sales and Marketing. “By offering social sites devoted to specific communities, residents have an opportunity to establish and maintain connections when and how it’s most convenient for them.”

Multiple scientific studies have emphasized the vital role social engagement plays in healthy aging, yet many older adults find making friends isn’t as easy as it was when they were younger. By designing its homes and communities based on lifestyle needs – from maintenance-free living to amenities such as clubhouses, pools and on-site fitness centers that promote social activity, Wilcox Communities can have a positive long-term effect on health, according to Nevers.

“In our younger years, we have lots of social interactions built in, and we’re encouraged on all fronts to ‘make friends,’” she explained. “As mature adults, it can be difficult to establish friendships, especially once the kids are grown. During our working years, we have demands from our careers that can prevent us from investing time into socializing, but once we retire and have more time, we may have fewer opportunities to create real bonds with other people. At Wilcox Communities, we want to make sure our residents have the tools in place to forge new friendships and build strong neighborhoods, and in today’s world, that means creating opportunities for social engagement online as well as within the actual community of home.”

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