WHAT ARE THE IMPACTS OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON SENIOR CITIZENS?
By Remy Kuhn and Megan Johnson, Interns at The Digital Arts Experience
As technological development advances, social media becomes more and more relevant across all generations. While social media started out as a method for teens and young adults to interact, it has grown to attract a broader audience. Adults over 74+ comprise of the fastest growing demographic across social networks. Since social media has become increasingly prevalent, it is inevitable that even senior citizens find it necessary to integrate social media into their lives. Closing the gap between older and younger generations allows senior citizens to keep in touch with the people in their lives, engage with organizations that matter to them and access resources that would otherwise be an inconvenience.
Over the years, without such advanced technology, older adults have had difficulty staying in touch with their close friends spanning from their childhood to their latest careers. Adults having traveled, studied and worked in various places may have struggled to maintain these relationships and connections without the time for face-to-face interaction. While phone calls, emails and letters have been the standard for many years, they have not allowed for as much of a connection as social media now does. We can now reach friends and family across the world more effectively through a post on Facebook or even keep everyone up to date with simply a Facebook status or blog. In fact, 40% of older adults use social media to connect with family and friends. Parents and grandparents can now communicate with their children and grandchildren, no matter where they are.
Social media allows senior citizens to get involved in organizations with people around the same age. They have the opportunity to keep meeting new people and stay active in the community. For example, Facebook allows older adults to find out about local events and use Facebook groups to converse with others about their interests, experiences, and local projects. Businesses targeted towards senior citizens can post tips and create a community on their Facebook page to keep them engaged. AARP, an organization created for people over 50 years old, has 1,061,765 likes on Facebook, showing just how many people want to be a part of their interactive page. Furthermore, older alumni approaching retirement are able to network and pass on their knowledge to the next generation by connecting to students through social media such as LinkedIn. The process of networking with older alumni allows students more opportunities and allows us to close the gap between younger and older generations. Therefore, social media can reach a more diverse audience by bringing in the older generation without losing the participation of the younger generation.
More attention is focused on senior citizens and their needs with their increasing presence in social media. Now, they can access certain resources online rather than inconvenience themselves by traveling to get information or find support. Seniors who have disabilities, medical conditions, or questions about staying healthy can interact with other seniors having similar problems or experience in the area just by logging on to social media. Seniors can have live discussions or create groups on sites like Facebook and talk about experiences they are struggling with in terms of their health and get support from those going through the same issues. If someone has a question about a symptom of a condition they have and do not want to have to call or make an appointment with their doctor right away, they can ask questions and inquire if anyone who has experienced it before, has any helpful advice or beneficial knowledge on the subject. The interaction helps seniors feel connected and supported which is why it is so important for them to learn to use social media in order to better their lives at their age.
With a rising rate of adults and seniors using and engaging in social media, it is important to keep all generations up to date with technology and methods of communication. The senior category should not be forgotten in marketing and advertising strategies since they comprise a big part of the network. The younger generation always has difficulty teaching their parents and grandparents to use new technologies and social media websites and apps, but should continue to assist and encourage them to learn, as it will be to all of our benefit as society turns digital.