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Queens Chronicle

PRIME TIMES: 60 Plus All the cool kids (retired) are on Facebook

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Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2019 10:30 am

Travel nurse Virginia Blackert remembers when it could take days to get a telephone call through to friends of hers in Tbilisi, in then-Soviet Georgia.

“Now, it’s nothing,” she said, thanks to the wonders of Facebook. She joined around 10 years ago simply because “people were talking about it,” and now she finds herself using it on a daily basis.

And Blackert, 70, is one of the untold millions of senior citizens who take advantage of the online social networking service, which was founded in 2004 and boasted two billion monthly active users as of January of last year.

Speak to a dozen individuals and chances are you’ll get as many reasons why they spend time on the network, though keeping in touch with family and friends is one of the more common ones.

Marilyn Garfinkel, a native of Laurelton who moved to Florida five years ago, probably has more experience on Facebook than most people in her age category.

“I got involved with computers a really long time ago,” she said. “I’m more tech savvy than the average 64-year-old.” She joined Facebook around 2008 because she wanted “to stay in touch and share pictures with friends. I like to be that person who shares.”

And, like many of the service’s users, she enjoys reconnecting with old friends, some of them long lost. “We all talk about the old hardware stores, the old bakeries, different people in the old neighborhood,” she said.

When she first went on Facebook, “It was a new toy,” she said. “I was a lot more involved. I would not be happy without it,” but she admitted, “I would not be devastated.”

When it comes to picture sharing, few can hold a candle to Manny and Aurora Torres, long-time residents of Forest Hills.

Aurora, 64, a retired executive administrative assistant, joined about 10 years ago, with Manny, 66, who spent years as a private chauffeur, following a short time later.

They add new photos to their Facebook page almost every day. These can run the gamut from scenes outside their home, covered in the latest blanket of snow, to shots of the two of them on their latest outings to Brooklyn or Manhattan.

“It’s a wonderful way to communicate,” Aurora said. “I’ve made a lot of friends,” she added, including people she has gone on to meet in person and with whom she has developed ongoing friendships.

For Manny, it’s mostly about his prized music collection — vinyl records, CDs, memorabilia, you name it. And, of course, he never hesitates to post photos of his latest purchases.

“I started linking into music groups,” he said. “In the beginning, it was about exploring different topics. I started seeing all these things on people’s records. We started sharing photos.”

Photos also play an important role for calculus professor John Masotti, 70, a resident of Bellerose Manor who joined the site about eight years ago.

“I use it to contact people and share photos,” mostly of his four little dogs, he said. “It’s a connector. I have a lot of friends in Florida.”

And just last month he heard from a former student to whom he taught biology back in 1970. That young man is now 64 and, according to Masotti, happy to have found his former teacher once again.

For Joni Rapp, a semiretired baby boomer who grew up in Forest Hills and now lives in Provincetown, Mass., Facebook is a way of promoting herself as an entertainer.

“I’m a social person,” she said. “I checked it out. I ‘friended’ people I knew, then others. There are people who found me who remembered seeing me in a show in 1972 and wondered what happened to me.”

She uses Facebook for advertising events and even has her own page, Provincetown Entertainment Group.

Also putting the service to good use in self-promotion is Cecilia Vaicels, 66, of Bellerose, who has been on board since 2009.

“I use Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends,” she explained, as well as to “promote shows, films, events I’m running or involved in.” She also turns to Facebook for inspiration, both physical and spiritual.

It helps her to stick to her workouts and she uses it sometimes “as a prayer group to give encouragement and sometimes to receive it.”

But Facebook isn’t always viewed in a positive light.

“If we didn’t have it, we’d go out more and see people more,” Blackert said. “And the lack of English grammar and usage is scary, especially in the medical field.”

Rapp is wary because there are “a lot of phonies. Anybody can say anything about who they are. You can’t always believe what you see.” So, she warned, “You should question.”

And Debbie Vogel, 60, who lives in Rego Park and joined Facebook only in 2014, said, “I know I spend entirely too much time on Facebook, but it has become the way people communicate with each other.” She added, however, that she misses the days of handwritten letters and personal phone calls.

“Facebook friends are not the same as friends you see on a day-to-day basis,” she said. But, she added, “I can’t imagine not having Facebook now.”

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