In the Comfort Life Spotlight
In 2010, Facebook estimated that it has at least a few million visitors over the age of 65. Rival Myspace.com claimed 6.7 million users of retirement age and reports that this is the site's fastest growing demographic.
Over the years we have heard of numerous seniors who grew to love life online. Tom Farr, a resident of the Scarborough Retirement Centre in Toronto admitted to us in 2004 that his true motivation in spending time online is to return to the days of amateur radio. Since that is not possible, "the computer is my salvation." 57 year old Kathy Roderick says, "Obviously more and more people are going to be communicating this way and I just want to keep up and stay current."
In fact, the grandchildren of these seniors are finding that they need to pay increasing attention to Facebook's robust privacy settings in order to stay out of trouble when posting photos or status updates about partying or class-skipping, etc. Some even grumble that inter-generational friending "might be the death of Facebook."
Social networking continues upward trend of seniors' activity online
In a 2011 survey, the PEW Internet and American Life Project released survey findings that showed that 3 – 6 % of social networking site users were 65 or older. In a closer look at the most popular social site, people 50 and older accounted for 25% of Facebook users. In 2009, 2% of those 65 and older used Twitter according to the same survey organization.
This growth of seniors online is part of a long trend of seniors adopting to changing technology just fine, thanks. As the Internet has become increasingly ubiquitous and essential, seniors have gone online in ever-increasing numbers, becoming an integral part of the audience for social media sites like Facebook. There are also many sites and communities that are exclusively for seniors such as Zoomers, 55plus and ComfortLife.ca. (Read more below.)
Social networks specific to seniors
In addition, seniors, in fact, want their own space online. A number of new social networking sites are tailored specifically to seniors.
In Canada, zoomers.ca, the brainchild of media mogul Moses Znaimer and geared specifically at the 55 plus crowd, has been online and growing since last year. Currently, it has over 6,000 members. Says Znaimer, "Boomers are just as adventurous as younger Web surfers. Whether they are streaming live audio and video...or embedding Flash-based applications on their profile pages... boomer Web surfers are as tech savvy as their younger counterparts. As far as we're concerned, the only difference between younger and older Web surfers is their bank balance."
Some admit that they want to stay away from younger people. Genkvetch.com (that's "Gen kvetch," kvetch being the Yiddish word for complaining) was launched in March of this year. The site was started by Marilyn Carroll who (indeed) kvetches, "There are so many sites for the young. We wanted somewhere that the 50-plus crowd could have fun."
Are Seniors Online Vulnerable?
One issue with seniors online is that there are well-founded fears for their vulnerability. They are less likely to recognize scams, they are known to have more money and they are more likely to be directly targeted by scammers and spammers interested in an easy buck.
The Internet Is Getting Gray. emarketer.com MARCH 18, 2009
Few Senior Surfers Sighted. emarketer.com. JULY 10, 2009.
Grandpa is ... browsing your Facebook page. The Associated Press.
Adults and Social Network Websites. Amanda Lenhart. Jan 14, 2009
Twitter and status updating. Amanda Lenhart, Susannah Fox Feb 12, 2009
Silver surfers: New social networking Web site Genkvetch geared to seniors. By Lois K. Solomon / Sun Sentinel Monday, March 23, 2009
Poll: Canadian Boomers Are No Luddites; Majority Feel World Would Be "Passing Them By" If They Weren't Online. CNW Group/ Yahoo! Canada.
Staying connected key for happy centenarians slated in county. By Jane Glenn Haas-The Orange County Register.
Growing number of older users logging on. By Nancy M. Laughlin | McClatchy/Tribune News March 15, 2009