More and more of the elderly start their journey into the magical realm of computers. As mobility decreases and social isolation rears its head, computers – and to be more precise, social networks – could offer a stable platform where people, who’ve reached that certain respected age, could communicate freely with one another.
Weirdly enough, this is not how social networks are used within this age group.
The link above summarizes an article (see references below) concerning the behaviour of older people regarding social networks, like MySpace or facebook.
How come the elderly seem to ignore each other in favour of the more youthful MySpace-user? Three theories immediately spring to mind:
- Generally speaking, older people aren’t willing to invest the time needed to raise their skills to a new level. They lack the options and/or will to mentally invest the activity needed to make use of this relatively new development.
- Older people do wish to make a leap of faith, but just don’t manage to perform as well as they used to. If the more youthful users would need half an hour to send an email, most of its charm would be lost to them as well.
- The elderly don’t know about it and/or support from the environment is minimal.
These can be summarized even further by stating (one of) the first two theories would be valid, if we’re dealing with a lack of skill, whereas the third can be attributed to a lack of awareness.
More and more older people start to make use of ‘modern technology’ and apparently, the skill barrier isn’t as huge as most people seem to believe. Furthermore, more and more companies are actively trying to encourage senior citizens to make use of the internet in general. Websites like Elderly Computer offer alternatives to the standard Windows interface in order to draw in a new crowd.
Awareness and curiosity (or the lacks thereof) seem to be the two major hurdles to overcome in the years to come. If the initial step into the technological realm can be facilitated, your friendslist on facebook might just get a bit more crowded.
Reference: “Age differences in online social networking – A study of user profiles and the social capital divide among teenagers and older users in MySpace”, by Ulrike Pfeil, Raj Arjan and Panayiotis Zaphiris from the City University of London, UK.