Seniors Embrace Social Media in Surprising Numbers


One of the writers I featured in my new book, The Vintage years: Finding Your Inner Artist (Writer, Musician, Visual Artist) After Sixty, didn't begin to write her first book until she was in her eighties. And realizing at that time that her preferred method of pen and paper was no longer efficient, she embarked on learning how to use a computer. At ninety-two she's quite proficient at the keyboard and no stranger to email.

Seniors are a pragmatic lot, adopting whatever new technologies make their lives easier. While it doesn't surprise me, I think that the technology mavens may have underestimated the extent to which boomers would gravitate to social media for entertainment and to fill all kinds of needs: to learn, to communicate, to research, to buy and to meet others.

In fact, according to Mashable writer Zoe Fox, "This year, 43% of Americans over 65 use at least one social networking site, compared with 26% in 2010 and 1% in 2008." While seniors' use of social media continues to lag behind younger cohort groups, as might be expected, "seniors have adopted social media at the highest rate over the past two years ... they are the only group yet to reach 50% adoption."

As a HuffPost50 reader you are certainly among the age 50+ adopters of social media so I am indeed preaching to the choir. The benefits of social media, and online pursuits in general, are numerous and highly reinforcing. Keeping in touch in real time has never been easier with messages capable of being sent from smartphones whenever and wherever anything happens. Seeing your grand-kids' pictures instantly after they've been taken, has you craving for more.

Like Pavlov's dogs we salivate when we hear an electronic ping signaling an email, text message, or someone wanting to connect via Pinterest, Twitter or LinkedIn. When you factor in Skype, Face Time and other video communication apps, where you can see and speak to family with no travel involved, there is a wealth of options for channels of social contact. Who knows what's next, but boomers will be there eagerly waiting for every new innovation in technology.

Age is no barrier to adopting new devices that better life. The capacity to learn any new technological advance that comes along fits a senior's ability quite well. After all, who has more time to learn? Once the basics are understood, the taste of success makes the next challenge even more inviting and exciting. In fact, Wishpond, an online social media marketing company, recently reported that "The 74+ demographic is the fastest growing among social networks."

Research in 2001 suggested that seniors were skeptical of technology and would be slow adopters given their beliefs that the effort to learn might not be worth the end results. But that was more than a decade ago. Perhaps ageist prejudices tinged researchers' hypotheses back then or maybe we've come to see the direct benefits to our lives of evolving technologies--making the world a smaller and more intimate place. Seniors have changed as has the technology, making it ever more difficult to categorize technology users by age.