September 4, 2011

USA: Big boom in 65+ crowd using social media

LAWRENCE, Kansas / WellCommons / Health Beat / September 2, 2011

By Jane Stevens

The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project says that people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s are taking to the digital age like the proverbial ducks to water, according to this wonderful post by Aylin Zafar on The number of people 65 and older using social networking sites grew 100 percent between April 2009 and May 2010, jumping from 13 percent to 26 percent. The fastest growing demographic? The 74-plus group.

Zafar's article takes a long look at how people 65 and over are using the web and social media, at how senior centers across the country are offering computer classes, and at research projects that are looking at the benefits of the elderly using social media.

An upcoming study to be published by Dr. Shelia Cotten, a sociologist and Associate Professor from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, reveals that Internet use was associated with a 30 percent decrease in depressive symptoms among older adults who used it regularly, while other studies have shown similarly impressive results.

Cotton and her team spent a year working with 300 seniors living in assisted and independent living centers. The article goes into great detail about the results. The best part are quotes like these:

When asked "How has the Internet changed your life in any way?" -- the feedback was surprisingly poignant. One participant responded saying, "We feel like we've joined the human race," while another said the computer class was the best thing she'd done since her husband died. One participant's answer was particularly staggering: "We're not as close to the grave as we thought."

"No matter how many times I hear that, it still sends chills down my spine," Cotten says. "I think for some people -- in assisted living in particular -- it's almost like the world is really just passing them by and they're just kind of waiting there to die. Having them be able to feel like they're learning this new stuff that can connect them with the larger world, it feels like it's pushing off death -- it's pushing them 'further from the grave.'"

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