It is 5.30 a.m., a time when it is a struggle to get out of their beds. But for the 75-year-old Kalpakam Srinivasamurthi it is time for an online appointment on a popular social networking website she will not like to give a miss. Her grandchildren, relatives and friends staying abroad eagerly wait for paati’s comments from Chennai.

She logs on again in the evening for some time without fail before retiring for the day. She does not call herself a Facebook addict but thinks the knowledge of various applications on the site makes her feel young.

Facebook, Orkut and other social networking sites are no longer the domain of youngsters alone. Senior citizens are increasingly turning to technology to catch up with like-minded people.

Ms. Kalpakam, for instance, was initiated in to the social networking site a year ago by her grandson who left it for her to explore the features further. “I don’t like to seem ignorant when everybody around talks about a subject, that is how I learnt about Facebook. It is a wonderful way to stay connected,” says the septuagenarian who attended a computer course for homemakers 10 years ago.

Since then it has been a journey of self-learning on the World Wide Web, something even Vasanthy Devasahayam (62) will vouch. Ms. Devasahayam recalls how someone had left a comment on her profile thinking she is a known acquaintance. “Later, I remembered her and brought out the connection that her mother-in-law was my mother’s friend,” says the former advertisement professional who reserves 10.30 p.m. to 1.30 p.m. for browsing the social networking site.

Ever since A. Raman, (65) joined the social networking community he has renewed his hobby in photography. The member of Humour Club has uploaded over 200 photographs and has quite a fan following. “The beauty is that I have renewed many contacts and at the same time I am cautious on whom to invite as friends and whom not,” he says.

For a majority of people, post-retirement social networking sites have become a good way to stay connected, reminisce memories, get rid of the boredom or simply to play games from the many features and applications.

P. Vyasamoorthy of Hyderabad moderates the web group sss-global (Society for Serving Seniors). “There are 550 members, all retired and net savvy. We exchange about 30 messages daily. Most of the topics related to elders are discussed. There are quite a few persons from Chennai who are members of the group,” he says.

A year after social networking site www.verdurez.com was launched for those above 55 years, the creators see its membership increasing – a majority of them are from the South.

“Connecting like-minded peers helps them alienate loneliness and to a great extent we could regulate that through our membership. Some lost their spouse and get advice from others in the group or share experiences, something which they would not like to discuss with all,” says Ishita Sukhadwala, founder, Verdurez. One of the oldest members is an 85 year old, and for many the site with its games and puzzles is an addiction, she says.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012