Social media gerontology: understanding social media usage among older adults

The percentage of older adults using social media has increased substantially in recent years, yet little research has been done to understand the foundations underlying social media technology usage by older adults. Such an understanding is useful for developing intelligent user modeling and personalization techniques specific to this growing community. The current work first compared characteristics of Facebook users to non-users among adults age 51 to 91 and found that older adult Face-book users were significantly more satisfied with their current social roles than non-users. Second, we explored several characteristics of active older adult Facebook users, providing detailed data regarding the ways in which they access social media, the kinds of personal information they typically share, and information about their public versus private communication practices, preferences, and concerns. Finally, we examined specific relationships between older adults’ Facebook communication habits and their attitudes regarding perceived loneliness and social role satisfaction. Controlling for factors such as age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status (education and income), and marital status, we found that directed communications (as opposed to broadcast communications or passive consumption of content) was correlated with reduced loneliness as well as increased social role satisfaction among this distinct population.