At 104, Ivy Bean may be the oldest person in Bradford, northern England. She is also, thanks to the internet, one of its most famous residents. After maxing out the friend capacity on Facebook (with 5,000), Bean graduated to Twitter in 2008, and from her residential home on the outskirts of the city she now offers daily insights into her life for some 48,000-odd followers.

Bean got into social networking when the home computer maintenance company Geek Squad helped her sign up last year, but what started as a publicity stunt has taken on a life of its own. Before that, Bean says, “All I used to do was sit all day and fall asleep. I’d be miserable if I didn’t do it.”

These days Bean is a celebrity. Last month she had a private meeting with the singer Peter Andre, who was in town for a book signing. “He’s a lovely fellow,” Bean says. On Wednesday, Chris Evans blew her a kiss on Twitter.

Bean’s windowsill is crowded with family photos, and she has a drawer full of letters and gifts from well-wishers worldwide. In person, she doesn’t see many visitors, apart from her daughter, but she says she never feels lonely now with the Twitter community to chat to, whether she is explaining what parkin is, or discussing the merits of television shows. When her good friend Norma Furniss passed away earlier this year, Bean was inundated with messages of support; if she doesn’t get the chance to tweet on any given day, her followers are anxious to know that she is OK.

Bean has no intention of resting on her laurels, however; she would still like more followers. “We’d better get it up to 50,000,” she says. “People should get their name down and we’ll have a few more.” — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2009

(Note:Ivy’s Twitter name is IvyBean104)

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