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Grandma’s on Facebook, but Would It Kill You to Call Her?

There were many reactions Verizon Wireless salesman Joseph Ramireza expected to hear when he introduced an iPhone to his oldest client this year. It would have been perfectly normal for the elderly Minnesota man to show confusion, maybe curiosity, possibly indifference. Instead, the 85-year-old said this:

“Wow, I have got to show this to my mom!”
“Well, how old is she?”

A few weeks later, many more people learned about the then-113-year-old when a TV station in Plainview, Minn., aired a story about her that went viral. It said that the woman, Anna Stoehr, tried to sign up for a Facebook account on her iPad mini (the regular iPad was too heavy) and she had to lie about her age because Facebook’s upper age limit wouldn’t recognize her birth year of 1900.

A few days before Stoehr’s 114th birthday, Ramireza tried sending a few emails to Facebook’s customer service. But he said he kept receiving automated responses. In what he says is Stoehr’s regular sass, she recommended that he send the company an actual letter.

“You tell them,” she said, “I’m still here.”

Before Stoehr was making headlines, Ramireza says, she was just a lady who wanted to try something new and connect with family members she doesn’t get to see. It’s something that people her age — well not her age, but people close to her age — are doing all the time.

Grandmas, it seems, have taken to Facebook. And although the site is phasing out of popularity among young people, seniors are fully embracing it. Since 2000, the number of adults 65 and older who use the Internet has increased from 14 percent to 59 percent. And in that group, nearly half use a social networking site such as Facebook.

“As you get older, you become socially isolated, especially when your family lives far away. So an opportunity to get online and see what their grandkids are up to this weekend? That really appeals to them” says Saffron Cassaday, the director of Cyber Seniors, a 2014 documentary about teenagers teaching residents of retirement homes to use the Internet.

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