SANDY — Move over, Bingo. Grandma's got a brand new game.
In the past two years, more than 10 million seniors joined Facebook, and they now make up about 11 percent of the social network mega site's U.S. population. Hundreds of classes are held in senior centers nationwide each year, with about 80 students per class, according to statistics compiled by AllAssistedLivingHomes.com, a website that helps to locate living facilities and activities for seniors.
It could be the largest growth sector for the site in recent years, at least in the U.S.
One in five baby boomers and older Internet users are now logging an hour each day on Facebook, primarily to connect with family and friends, but also to share photos and participate in social gaming and the growing number of contests and promotions offered online.
They've come a long way, but not without the help of David Muecke, whose "Intro to Facebook" course has become one of the most popular computer courses offered at the Sandy Senior Center, located at 9310 S. 1300 East.
"Most of them are saying they're interested because their kids are putting their pictures on Facebook, or messages, and they want to stay in touch," Muecke said. His instruction takes the hassle out of signing up, posting messages and pictures and the basics of getting around on Facebook.
"We see our grandkids. We see old friends. It's fun," said JoAnn Lofstrom, who lives in Sandy. "It's also a nice place to meet people."
Since joining in 2009, Lofstrom has connected with 56 friends and family members and is now adept at computer and chat lingo. She's also identified hundreds of local and not-so-local retailers and marketers, giving her friends a glimpse of her online personality.
Kenneth Rodahl, who has about 20 friends on Facebook, said he was tired of not knowing what all the fuss was about.
"I've got a lot of nieces and nephews that have put pictures on there already, and they want me to put more on there, and I've been ignoring them," he said. "So, I thought maybe I need to get into this and see what it's all about."
But along with many other golden-agers, Rodahl was a little worried about who has access to his personal information and whether he could get himself into trouble by joining in the fun.
"Your privacy and security is entirely in your control, so there is nothing to fear," Muecke said. His next course is being offered April 7. More information and other classes, including computer fundamentals and Internet basics, can be found online, at www.sandyseniorcenter.org.
Contributing: Alex Cabrero