When you think of social media, you probably imagine young adults scrolling away on their smartphones, but what about older adults?
When it comes to new technology, there’s a common misconception that we simply stick to what we know. But statistics show that older adults are becoming increasingly tech savvy.
In fact, studies show that 64 percent of Americans over age 65 were internet users in 2016—that’s more than half of America’s older population. And the numbers keep on growing—from 2014 to 2017; there was a 46.4 percent growth in internet users over age 55.
Statistics show that millennials and Gen-Z aren’t the only ones with a social media presence. In one study, 67 percent of Americans age 60 and over reported using Facebook, and only 27 percent said they didn’t use social media at all.
Of course, social media usage doesn’t always get the best rap. Older generations have accused social media platforms of diminishing millennials’ social skills. Meanwhile, studies have proven that in younger populations, heavy social media use can lead to depression and anxiety.
But for older adults, social media just might be a solution to a common obstacle that can come with aging: isolation.
Older adults are at an elevated risk for isolation for several reasons. For example, many older adults may choose to “age in place” for as long as possible, remaining in their own home rather than moving into a communal space such as a retirement home or senior living community. As children and loved ones pursue lives in other places, older adults may be left with a smaller circle of friends and family with which to share their days.
Additionally, the physical challenges posed by aging can also negatively impact older adults’ social lives. For many, limited mobility can make leaving the house more difficult, especially in areas with fewer transportation options. Losing the ability to drive or easily transport oneself could make you less likely to come in contact with others.
Isolation poses serious risks for older adults, and may lead to depression, difficulty managing daily tasks and even heighten the risk for chronic health conditions.
However, many older adults are making much-needed connections with loved ones through social media—and the numbers show that the benefits are real.
A recent study revealed that, for older adults who were isolated due to chronic pain, regular exposure to social media alleviated the effects of isolation. Meanwhile, those who did not use social media were twice as likely to experience depression.
As for the negative side effects of social media, older adults may not be as affected as their younger counterparts. For example, older adults generally aren’t as dependent on social media. In one survey, 51 percent of users ages 18 to 24 said they would have a hard time breaking their social media habit, while only one-third of those age 50 and over reported that giving up social media would be difficult.
Many older adults could stand to benefit from social media and already have a presence on platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube. That said, those who aren’t already tech-savvy may need help a little help introducing social media into their lives. In fact, nearly 75 percent of Americans over age 65 said they needed assistance setting up and learning new technology, and only 26 percent said they feel very confident when using new devices.
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