Why Seniors Need the Internet More Than Anyone

11/24/2014 03:45 pm ET Updated Jan 24, 2015

Baddie Winkle isn't wearing any pants. But she does have on a giant T-shirt tessellated with images of Queen Bey.

"I nominate Beyoncé for the ice bucket challenge!" the 86-year-old proclaims, dumping a cauldron of frigid water over her head.

Since tweeting this Vine video Aug. 31, it's been retweeted over 1,300 times. No big deal for the badass grandma, who regularly posts hilarious, irreverent, and pop culture-driven material to her 254,000 Twitter followers and nearly 410,000 followers on Instagram.

And while Baddie's cyber stardom keep us rollicking, Internet use can have serious health benefits for people her age. Depression and chronic pain affect more than 6.5 million Americans 65 and older, and research shows that knowing how to use smartphones, music streaming sites and, yes, social media can offer relief.

Thing is, 40 percent of older adults don't touch the Internet. At all. And 66 percent of those say they'd need help getting started. If only there were tons of tech experts who have a lot of time on their hands and, for whatever reason, love seniors. But where would we find these kind of people? Hmmm...

"I now know from experience that teaching some of my elders technology is going to change their lives," wrote Megan, a student who showed her grandfathers, grandmothers, and three other local seniors some of the basics. "Ever since my grandmother passed away last year, my family and I have noticed a little bit of depression seeping into my grandfather's life. My grandfather has no one to visit with and is often alone for weeks because no one has time to sit and talk with him. When I showed him the basic rules of a Gmail email account, he was very enthusiastic about the idea of having someone to write to."

Yep, young people, who tweet and Instagram, like, 27 hours a day are technology whizzes from birth who -- surprise! -- adore their grandparents. This holiday season, for the third consecutive year, DoSomething.org's Grandparents Gone Wired campaign will activate thousands of 13- to 25-year-olds to plug their grandparents or other local seniors into social media, smartphone apps, and email. One of last year's participants, Madeline, taught her grandma how to video chat.

"The way that my grandma's face lit up when we got to FaceTime her son (my uncle) who lives on the other side of the country, who she hadn't seen in seven years, gave me SUCH joy," she wrote.

Emily, another Grandparents Gone Wired participant, was concerned about the boredom induced by her grandparents' routine of TV and and napping.

"The use of the Internet provides fun things such as social networking, games, and email," she said. "My grandfather had a great time finding people he hasn't seen in plenty of years on Facebook! He also currently enjoys sending funny emails to our family. I love seeing him have a great time on the computer."


Facebook and email? Let's get all of today's seniors up and running on those. Tweeting a selfie while wearing a tie-dye shirt that says "Will Commit Sins 4 Chipotle"? Leave it to Baddie Winkle.