RAQ: Do Seniors use Social Media?

Here’s a recently asked question from Sturle Monstad (@sturlemo), from Bergen, Norway:

Lee,

Thanks for collecting such a wealth of info on your SMUG site. I am using the resources in my work with health promotion for older adults. I have a contract with Lions Club in Norway on a programme they are setting up a web site for them. I am now trying to include social media for marketing and community building.

They are a bit skeptical, but well see how things work out. We see that seniors are getting more active on Facebook, and I think the interaction may be positive for many. Have you written anything about social media/seniors?

Answer:

First, thanks for helping to put the “Global” in SMUG!

As I say in Thesis 23, almost everybody uses social media today, whether they know it or not. You point out correctly that Facebook is growing rapidly among those over age 55, having increased by more than 900 percent in 2009.

I also can tell you that on our Mayo Clinic YouTube channel, almost 30 percent of video views are from people age 55 or older.

As these tools are becoming ever easier to use, the growth of social media will continue. I believe women over 55, for example, are the fastest-growing demographic in Facebook.

It all comes down to whether the content or subject matter is worthwhile and interesting.

My dad turns 79 on Saturday. He’s on Facebook, too, because it’s a way to see video and photos of his great-granddaughter.

Social platforms, from blogs to Facebook to YouTube, make it easier for anyone to share information that others will find interesting.

What do you think? What other statistics or arguments about senior citizens and social media can you offer to Sturle? Do you have any personal examples or case studies to share?

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3 thoughts on “RAQ: Do Seniors use Social Media?”

  1. Interesting question. As I have written on my blog about recent research older people tend to be more careful and selective when choosing their friends on social networks and only want to add to their friends list people that they know very well. Older people tend to represent themselves in a more formal and official way compared to teenagers.
    The lack of computer skills can be another problem for the elderly, nevertheless they can learn these skills as has been shown in other research. But this aspect of social network use and elderly should be addressed when developing social networking for the elderly. Especially since since new media and co-creation have the potential to increase individuals’ flexibility, expand opportunities for information retrieval and learning, and compensate for functional limitations such as reduced mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive abilities.
    http://www.shockmd.com/2009/10/19/elderly-and-internet-and-computer-skills-an-update/
    More on how do the elderly differ from younger people in Internet use and the creation of user generated content can be read in another post
    http://www.shockmd.com/2008/10/23/the-generational-divide-in-internet-use/

    Kind regards Dr Shock

  2. Lee and Dr. Shock,

    Thanks for your thoughts and references!

    The habits of the older adult internet popultion are changing and it is very interessting to think about how to facilitate participation online. Diffusion of innovation takes time, but ways to speed up seniors use and involvement should be on the radar.

    I will follow both your websites!

    Regards,
    Sturle Monstad

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