Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?
Research conducted by the Pew Research Center found that once two-legged “old dogs” get a taste of today’s’ social media landscape – they can’t seem to get enough.
Pew studied Internet usage across all age groups in 2010 and found that 47 percent of Internet users were aged 50 to 64 years older. In fact, when surveyed, 72 percent of these older users reported using the Internet on any typical day. The seniors reported they use the Internet to stay informed and feel comfortable sending emails, banking online, reading news online and watching YouTube videos to learn what they want to know. The older adults also reported using the Internet to stay abreast of information on healthy aging such as those offered by AARP, Older Adults Technology Services (OATS), and Project Goal. In fact, Pew found that the National Digital Literacy Corps launched an initiative that trained volunteers to teach digital literacy skills to older adults in communities nationwide (Pew Research Center, 2010).
What was surprising, at the time the study was conducted, was that older adults had learned to tap into the power of social media. Pew found that social networking among Internet users over 50-years-old had almost doubled between 2009 and 2010 when their study was conducted. Pew found seniors use MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn.com. But, when stratifying social media users by age group, Pew found that seniors appear to prefer Twitter’s 140-character snaps. The study reports use among adults 50 years and older increased astonishing 120% between 2009 and 2010. When surveyed, one in ten of the seniors reported they mainly use Twitter to reconnect with old friends and family and share updates about themselves and get updates on their loved ones.
Senior Planet, a website that celebrates aging by sharing information and resources that support aging, featured an article that explained Twitter capabilities and its potential benefits to seniors. The article explained to seniors that Twitter is an online social networking tool that lets users send their followers. It compared Twitter to a “microphone” seniors could use to broadcast to engage with others and let them know how they feel about it around the world, or, just to friends and family. The article concluded by providing seniors with a link to follow Senior Planet online. This, by intent, also led seniors to the Twitter account set-up page, which taught them how to set up their own Twitter account. The result was Grandma could easily learn how to attend every birthday party, actively argue with her sisters, and speak to the President in real time – virtually – using a computer or her smartphone and the power of Twitter!
Pew’s study concluded by outlining the benefits to be derived from increased Internet and social media use by older adults. The benefits included seniors tapping into their ability to easily access advice and information for the treatment and management of chronic diseases by participating in the discussions and blog forums targeted toward seniors with diagnosed health concerns. Another benefit identified was seniors can now remain an active member of their communities because the Internet and social media help them access the same information available to everyone else which facilitates intergenerational public-sector communications and acts. Despite perceptions that use of social media can lead to further isolation, few would argue that seniors’ ability to reconnect with their loved ones and their past using social media has the greatest ability to improve the quality of their lives and feelings of overall well-being.
Madden, M. (2010, August 27). Older Adults and Social Media Social networking use among those ages 50 and older nearly doubled over the past year. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/files/old-media/Files/Reports/2010/Pew%20Internet%20-%20Older%20Adults%20and%20Social%20Media.pdf
Thalheimer, J. (2013, December 13). Why Twitter Matters for Seniors | Senior Planet. Retrieved from https://seniorplanet.org/so-whats-the-point-of-twitter-anyway/