Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks – Seniors Connecting via Social Media
Keywords:Older people, Seniors, Social media, Social isolation, Social connectedness, Internet
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.
Anderson, M., & Perrin, A. (2017, May 17). Tech adoption climbs among older adults. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2017/05/17/tech-adoption-climbs-among-older-adults/
Ang, S., & Chen, T.-Y. (2019). Going online to stay connected: Online social participation buffers the relationship between pain and depression. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, 74(6), 1020–1031. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gby109
Ang, S., Lim, E., & Malhotra, R. (2021). Health-related difficulty in internet use among older adults: Correlates and mediation of its association with quality of life through social support networks. The Gerontologist, 61(5), 693–702. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnaa096
Auxier, B. & Anderson, M. (2021, April 7). Social media use in 2021. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021/
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2021). FBI 2020 Internet crime report. https://www.ic3.gov/Media/PDF/AnnualReport/2020_IC3Report.pdf
Garcia, K. R., Rodrigues, L., Pereira, L., Busse, G., Irbe, M., Almada, M., Christensen, C., Midão, L., Dias, I., Heery, D., Hardy, R., Quarta, B., Poulain, M. M., Bertram, M., Karnikowski, M., & Costa, E. (2021). Improving the digital skills of older adults in a COVID-19 pandemic environment. Educational Gerontology, 47(5), 196–206. https://doi.org/10.1080/03601277.2021.1905216
Halifax Public Libraries. (n.d.). Public computers & devices. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from https://www.halifaxpubliclibraries.ca/technology/public-computers-devices/
Hill, R., Betts, L. R., & Gardner, S. E. (2015). Older adults‘ experiences and perceptions of digital technology: (Dis)empowerment, wellbeing, and inclusion. Computers in Human Behavior, 48, 415–423. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.01.062
Hutto, C. J., Bell, C., Farmer, S., Fausset, C., Harley, L., Nguyen, J., & Fain, B. (2015). Social media gerontology: Understanding social media usage among older adults. Web Intelligence, 13(1), 69–87. https://doi.org/10.3233/WEB-150310
Jaeger, P. T., Bertot, J. C., Thompson, K. M., Katz, S. M., & DeCoster, E. J. (2012). The intersection of public policy and public access: Digital divides, digital literacy, digital inclusion, and public libraries. Public Library Quarterly, 31(1), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2012.654728
Jung, E. H., Walden, J., Johnson, A. C., & Sundar, S. S. (2017). Social networking in the aging context: Why older adults use or avoid Facebook. Telematics and Informatics, 34(7), 1071–1080. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2017.04.015
Kebede, A. S., Ozolins, L.-L., Holst, H., & Galvin, K. (2021). The digital engagement of older people: Systematic scoping review protocol. JMIR Research Protocols, 10(7), e25616. https://doi.org/10.2196/25616
Khoo, S. S., & Yang, H. (2020). Social media use improves executive functions in middle-aged and older adults: A structural equation modeling analysis. Computers in Human Behavior, 111, 106388. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2020.106388
Khosravi, P., Rezvani, A., & Wiewiora, A. (2016). The impact of technology on older adults‘ social isolation. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 594–603. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.05.092
Lee, N. M. (2018). Fake news, phishing, and fraud: A call for research on digital media literacy education beyond the classroom. Communication Education, 67(4), 460–466. https://doi.org/10.1080/03634523.2018.1503313
Nef, T., Ganea, R. L., Müri, R. M., & Mosimann, U. P. (2013). Social networking sites and older users – a systematic review. International Psychogeriatrics, 25(7), 1041–1053. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1041610213000355
Olphert, W., & Damodaran, L. (2013). Older people and digital disengagement: A fourth digital divide? Gerontology, 59(6), 564–570. http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000353630
Penman, M. (2020, May 8). For isolated older people, pandemic is ‘a cruel event at this time in our lives.‘ The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/for-isolated-older-people-pandemic-is-a-cruel-event-at-this-time-in-our-lives/2020/05/08/52480daa-8a2d-11ea-ac8a-fe9b8088e101_story.html
Rasi, P., Vuojärvi, H., & Rivinen, S. (2021). Promoting media literacy among older people: A systematic review. Adult Education Quarterly, 71(1), 37–54. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741713620923755
Sinclair, T. J., & Grieve, R. (2017). Facebook as a source of social connectedness in older adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 66, 363–369. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.10.003
Szanton, S. L., Roberts, L., Leff, B., Walker, J. L., Seplaki, C. L., Soones, T., Thorpe, R. J., & Ornstein, K. A. (2016). Home but still engaged: Participation in social activities among the homebound. Quality of Life Research, 25(8), 1913–1920.
Vošner, H. B., Bobek, S., Kokol, P., & Krečič, M. J. (2016). Attitudes of active older Internet users towards online social networking. Computers in Human Behavior, 55, 230–241. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.09.014
Wu, H.-Y., & Chiou, A.-F. (2020). Social media usage, social support, intergenerational relationships, and depressive symptoms among older adults. Geriatric Nursing, 41(5), 615–621. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gerinurse.2020.03.016
Xie, B., Watkins, I., Golbeck, J., & Huang, M. (2012). Understanding and changing older adults‘ perceptions and learning of social media. Educational Gerontology, 38(4), 282–296. https://doi.org/10.1080/03601277.2010.544580
Zaccaria, D., Guaita, A., Vaccaro, R., Casanova, G., Abbondanza, S., Pettinato, L., Cerati, G., Rolandi, E., & Sala, E. (2020). Assessing the impact of social networking site use on older people‘s loneliness and social isolation. A randomized controlled trial: The aging in a networked society-social experiment study (ANS-SE). Contemporary Clinical Trials Communications, 19, 100615. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conctc.2020.100615
Zeff, J. (2010, May 31) TIME Magazine Cover: Facebook ...and how it‘s redefining privacy - May 31, 2010. TIME. http://content.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20100531,00.html
Zhang, K., Kim, K., Silverstein, N. M., Song, Q., & Burr, J. A. (2021). Social media communication and loneliness among older adults: The mediating roles of social support and social contact. The Gerontologist, 61(6), 888–896. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnaa197
Zickuhr, K., & Smith, A. (2012, April 13). Digital differences. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2012/04/13/digital-differences/
Papers published in the Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management must be the original, unpublished work of the author. Contributors are responsible for obtaining any copyright clearances required in relation to their work.
Authors submitting a paper to the Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management automatically agree to grant a limited license to DJIM if and when the manuscript is accepted for publication. This license gives permission for DJIM to publish the paper in a given issue and to maintain the work in the electronic journal archive. DJIM also submits issues to institutional repositories and Open Access repositories.
Contributors agree to each reader accessing, downloading, or printing one copy of their article for their own personal use or research. All other copyrights remain with the author, subject to the requirements that any republication of the work be accompanied by an acknowledgement that the work was first published in the Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management and that the DJIM Editorial Chair must be notified of any republication of a work first published in DJIM.
Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management
c/o School of Information Management
Faculty of Management
Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building
6100 University Avenue
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3J5
Authors should recognize that, because of the nature of the Internet, the publisher has no control over unauthorized copying or editing of protected works.