Facebook for Seniors and Baby Boomers – Is It the Answer for the Socially Inactive?

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Facebook has seen a surge of 513% in sign-ups – by Seniors and over 55s!

These figures from the US, released by Nielsen, confirmed a trend that we’ve seen in recent years: That more seniors are becoming active on the Web. In fact, figures show that the number of older users of Facebook increased nearly tenfold in America last year, while university-age users declined by 55 per cent. (There have been rumors that these younger user groups are being alienated by their parents joining the service, and this data seems to prove it).

One of my favourite sites, Mashable, reports that “the rise of Facebook to number three on this list (of social network usage growth by over 55′s) from number 45 a year ago, is a huge sign of just how mainstream social networking has become. YouTube at number four is another confirmation of this trend”.

Australia, too, has seen a massive increase in seniors using Facebook, and social networks generally, in the last couple of years. Australian figures show that about one in five over the age of 55 is connecting through Facebook, with 550,000 logging in. Apparently the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is women over 55.

Nielsen noted a similar pattern with Internet usage, “Among people 65+, the growth of women in the last five years has outpaced the growth of men by 6 percentage points.” Marketers should stand up an take notice. The 65 and older online crowd in the United States totals 17.5 million – that’s 13% of the population. And this is a group that tends to have both more disposable income and leisure time than other demographics.

What’s the attraction for seniors? Most obviously, the ability to keep up to date with the lives of family and friends, especially grandchildren interstate and overseas. Not only that, access to the web keeps the mind active and focused, helping to alleviate boredom and depression.

However with this kind of uptake, it stands to reason that social media could become an as yet unseen source of interaction for people that are alone, isolated or socially inactive. A good case for providing all seniors with affordable internet access (and a Facebook account).

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