An article from the New York Times shows how online social networks are filling a void for seniors who find their “old” social connections falling apart. In Online, ‘a Reason to Keep on Going’, Stephanie Clifford writes about a woman who after suffering a heart attack two years ago started using sites like Eons to connect with others and now spends up to 14 hours a day in online conversations.
“I was dying of boredom,” she said. “Eons, all by its lonesome, gave me a reason to keep on going.” Now, I can’t imagine spending 14 hours on a social network, but Ms. Rice isn’t alone. According to data from Comscore, the number of boomers visiting social networks has grown almost twice as fast as the overall rate of internet usage among Boomers.
Researchers have begun studying the phenomenon to see whether social networks can provide some of the benefits of a group of friends, while being much easier to assemble and maintain.
“One of the greatest challenges or losses that we face as older adults, frankly, is not about our health, but it’s actually about our social network deteriorating on us, because our friends get sick, our spouse passes away, friends pass away, or we move,” said Joseph F. Coughlin, director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“The new future of old age is about staying in society, staying in the workplace and staying very connected,” he added. “And technology is going to be a very big part of that, because the new reality is, increasingly, a virtual reality. It provides a way to make new connections, new friends and new senses of purpose.”
What I found most interesting about the article was the way that seniors are using these networks differs so much from my generation. We use social media sites to keep in touch with friends, not necessarily make new ones.
If you’re experimenting with reaching seniors online, it’s definitely worth reading.