Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks – Seniors Connecting via Social Media

Anne Summerhays


Social media is an important platform for accessing information and connecting with friends and family, yet in 2016, only 34% of Americans over the age of 64 had ever used online networking sites. Older people face significant barriers to usage of social media and are particularly vulnerable to internet-based scams, yet risk suffering from loneliness and isolation while they go through major life changes associated with aging. Research suggests that social media could be an important tool to reduce this isolation, and help people stay connected and supported while they age. This essay discusses the heightened relevance of this topic in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, how older people most often interact with social media, the digital divide and how it disproportionately affects seniors, and some important upsides and downsides of older people being active on social media. Upsides include the capacity of social media to reduce isolation among vulnerable populations and improve various health outcomes, as well as being a chance to stay current with family members’ lives. The most pressing downside is the dangers faced by older users who may not know how to protect themselves against internet-based fraud and identity theft. For those who wish to encourage older people to use social media to connect, there is therefore a strong need for digital literacy programs to help them learn to do so safely. Librarians can and will play a huge role in the future of this issue.


Older people; Seniors; Social media; Social isolation; Social connectedness; Internet

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