67% of American seniors say President Trump tweets too much. Hardly surprising, you might say.
According to a 2017 study by the highly regarded Pew Research Center, the use of technology and social media by seniors in the United States reveals some interesting trends:
- 4 in 10 seniors now own smartphones, more than double the share that did so in 2013
- Internet use and broadband adoption among those 65-69 with incomes of $75k+ is 94% compared to 51% respectively for seniors generally
- 32% own tablets, which rises to 62% of younger, better educated and higher income seniors; while
- 34% of seniors report using social media (rising to 56% for college educated) representing a 7% increase from 2013.
Clearly, US seniors are adopting communications technologies at an impressive rate, even more so among younger, better educated and higher income seniors.
While these findings are undoubtedly interesting, they did not tell us how seniors use the internet and how they use social media. Which is why SJ Insights launches its digital /social media panel. Among the highlights of the early findings are:
87% log in to Facebook twice a day or more
50% are very concerned that they are reading “fake news”; and
67% believe that President Trump should not be using Twitter to communicate as often as he does.
And why exactly are seniors using social media? Various organizations concerned with seniors’ well being have suggested the following:
- Seniors benefit socially, mentally and physically, including reported elevated moods, increased participation in healthier activities such as cooking healthier recipes, lower blood pressure, fewer instances of diabetes and less smoking
- Keeping the family together by sharing messages, photos, video chats …
- A greater sense of community by allowing seniors to make plans with others and combat loneliness for those who are housebound
- Giving the family peace of mind by allowing adult children to check in with their parents on a regular basis
- The convenience and savings of shopping online; and
- The comfort of entertainment.
But some precautions should be taken. Adult children will want to be sure that their loved ones are not falling for phishing scams. That they are not connecting with untrustworthy people in chat rooms. And that they don’t spend too much.
What observations and conclusions can be drawn from these studies?
- The use of technology among seniors is increasing. And in ten years, today’s younger seniors will be the older ones. And they will be social media literate
- Most important studies on this topic are undertaken in the States. More work is needed in Canada
- More study is needed to determine whether the initial observations and hypotheses hold true
- There is a large market for social media applications geared to seniors which has probably not been fully exploited; and
- The benefits of social media literacy among seniors may have implications for the amount and type of care given to some seniors. And some adult children may be more comfortable living slightly further away from their aging parents.
Let me know what you think
Are you caring for aging parents? How social media literate are they? Are there applications you would like to see developed for seniors? Should we be doing anything to foster the use of social media among less educated, lower-income and older seniors? Do you think current trends are positive or do we have reason to be concerned? Are you aware of any Canadian studies on this topic? I look forward to hearing from you.