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For Women 40+, Social Networking is Essential

When we think of social networking, we often picture teenage kids gabbing in online chat rooms, young singles seeking other young singles, or first-time mothers sharing advice with other moms.

But the fastest growing group of folks turning to the Internet to connect, share information, and support each other is baby boomer women.

And the talk taking place online for this 44-62 age group goes beyond, “Hey, are you feeling those hot flashes?” Baby boomer women are talking finance, retirement, ways to re-invent themselves, and how to stay healthy for their children and grandchildren.

Several years ago, I found myself in a rut. My mother had just died. I was facing an empty nest at home, as my kids ventured off to college. I needed guidance for my second half of life. I soon realized that there were more than 40 million other baby boomer women in America, many of whom were feeling the exact same sense of aimlessness.

Vital Population Wired In

Like me, this community was digitally savvy, and hungry to connect.

Following much soul searching about what I could do for the good of other women, I start my own site dedicated to boomer women, www.BoomerWomenSpeak.com. I was eager to give my generation of women an online voice, and an opportunity for us to connect, encourage and support one another in the cyber world. My hope was that the internet was not for teens only.

Since launching the site, I’ve learned so much simply by connecting baby boomer women to one another and giving them a place to share their stories and support each other.

We live longer, are wealthier, and are better educated than our predecessors. We’ve become a key demographic segment for online marketing. According to data reported on Brandweek.com, 41 percent of boomers visit social networking sites. Sixty-one percent of boomer internet users visit sites that offer streaming and downloadable video. Baby boomers make up the Web’s largest constituency, accounting for one-third of the 195.3 million web users in the United States.

Whether connecting to other women with similar interests and traveling together, exploring elder law, playing brain games to avoid dementia, or using a web cam to check in with the grandkids, it’s no longer a miracle when parents and grandparents use computers in their professional and private lives.

Benefits of Social Networking

And social networking isn’t just a good idea, it’s scientifically proven.

In fact, a UCLA study on friendship among women showed that when a woman is stressed, her body releases the hormone oxytocin, which encourages her to tend children and gather with other women. When she actually engages in this behavior, more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress and produces a calming effect.

Boomer women may need this calming effect as they weight retirement against prolonged careers due to the economy or the desire to keep working. An AARP survey recently found that one in five boomer workers has stopped contributing to his or her 401(k) account. This year, the oldest boomer women are turning 62 and starting to receive Social Security.

Luckily, the closeness found among women online isn’t simply a superficial female emotion. It’s good business. According to Jennifer Kalita, the entrepreneurship expert at the National Association of Baby Boomer, www.NABBW.com, “The beauty of boomer women in business is their collective spirit of collaboration. Rather than being intimidated by a potential business competitor, boomer women will often seek out ways to cross-promote, pool resources, and support one another.”

Kitchen Table Goes Virtual

“A coffee break with a friend at work, a quick chat with a neighbor, a phone call to your sister, even a visit to church are all ways to reduce stress while fostering lasting relationships with the people close to you,” reports Mayo Clinic research on www.Revolutionhealth.com.

Well, we always knew that. But the researchers at Mayo also found that connecting through a Web site provides added support to those who live in small towns, are living abroad, facing chronic illness, loss of a loved one, divorce, or other life changes.

This support network helps women develop a sense of belonging and security along with an increased sense of self-worth.

In my experience, being in relationships with others is exciting. I feel fortunate and fulfilled when I listen and share with others. There is peace in knowing that others trust me with their stories and I feel comforted when others listen to mine.

Baby boomer women will continue to connect, across the kitchen table and around the world — and the virtual world is there to support them.

Dotsie Bregel NABBW Founder and CEO
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