STUDY: Senior Citizens’ Use Of Facebook, Other Social Networks Slowly Climbing

By David Cohen 

OlderManLaptop650While the percentage of U.S. senior citizens (defined as those aged 65 and older) using Facebook and other social networks continues to increase, it still lags well behind the adoption rate of overall U.S. adults, according to the results of a new study from Pew Research Center.

Pew found that 46 percent of senior citizen Internet users access Facebook and other social networks, compared with 73 percent of all adult Internet users. Factoring in non-Internet users, just 27 percent of adults 65 and older use social networks, compared with 63 percent of all adults.

More than one-half (52 percent) of female Internet users 65 and up use social networks, versus just 39 percent for men in that age group, Pew found.

Pew also reported a dramatic drop-off after the age of 80, saying that just 27 percent of Internet users in that age group access social networking sites.

Overall, 59 percent of seniors go online, up from 53 percent last year, while 47 percent have broadband connections, and 77 percent have cell phones, up from 69 percent in April 2012. Among those who go online, Pew found that 71 percent do so every day or every other day, while 11 percent do so three to five times per week.

Pew found that 81 percent of senior citizens who use social networks every day socialize with others (in-person, online, or on the phone) daily or nearly daily, while that figure drops to 71 percent for online seniors who do not use social networks, and to 63 percent for non-online adults 65 and older.

Twitter did not fare well in the Pew study, as just 6 percent of online seniors, or 3 percent or seniors overall, reported using Twitter.

Pew said in its report:

Two different groups of older Americans emerge. The first group (which leans toward younger, more highly educated, or more affluent seniors) has relatively substantial technology assets, and also has a positive view toward the benefits of online platforms. The other (which tends to be older and less affluent, often with significant challenges with health or disability) is largely disconnected from the world of digital tools and services, both physically and psychologically.

As the Internet plays an increasingly central role in connecting Americans of all ages to news and information, government services, health resources, and opportunities for social support, these divisions are noteworthy — particularly for the many organizations and individual caregivers who serve the older adult population.

For a variety of reasons (such as physical distance from family members and/or lack of mobility), some older adults often have difficulty connecting with friends and family members in person. For these seniors, social networking sites can offer an additional venue for connection and socializing with others — and indeed, older adults who use social networking sites such as Facebook are more likely to regularly socialize with friends, whether online, in person, or over the telephone, compared with seniors who are not social networking site users. And this correlation between social networking site use and increased socialization with others persists even when we control for common demographic factors such as age, income, or geographic area of residence.

Readers: What did you think of Pew’s findings?


Images of seniors courtesy of Shutterstock.