Social Media and Older Adults

Pew has just released the latest results from its Internet and American Life Project survey, which found that the fastest growing demographic adopting social media is people over 50.

All age groups continue to jump on the social networking bandwagon, and young adults still dominate. But social media use among Internet users ages 50 and older has nearly doubled — from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010. In the 50- to 64-year-old bracket, the figure leaped from 25% to 47%, and for those over 65 the figure shot up from 13% of the population using social nets to 26%. By way of comparison, 76% of users 18 to 29 used social nets in 2009 and this group’s usage rose to 86% this year.

“Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users,” explains Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist and the report’s author. “E-mail is still the primary way that older users maintain contact with friends, families, and colleagues, but many older users now rely on social network platforms to help manage their daily communications.”

Other data from the survey of 2,200 American adults revealed growing interest among older users in social status sites like Twitter: 11% of them now have used Twitter or a similar site this year, versus just 5% last year — and 6% of them do so on a daily basis, compared to just 1% in 2009. Here’s some interesting info about how various age groups leverage various social platforms on a daily basis:

Pew doesn’t analyze the reasoning behind the upward trend of social media usage by older adults, but it’s likely that it’s partly a natural progression — adoption of new technology is propagating up through the age groups, similar to the “silver surfer” phenomenon described among British users. And services like Facebook and Twitter are expanding the scope of their platforms as business-to-consumer branding, promotional, and contact management tools.

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