Understanding the Online Behavior of Seniors in the Age of the Selfie

Jun 19, 2017 | Social Media/Digital

By Emma Ward, IMS Specialist

With National Selfie Day and World Social Media Day both falling in June, it raises a question about the influence of social media in our daily lives—and more specifically how social media use among older adults is changing the senior living field.

While millennials may have come of age during the emergence of social media, they aren’t the only generation to embrace the new technology. Today, many older adults regularly use the popular social media website, Facebook, and video chat applications like Skype and FaceTime to stay connected to family and friends.

According to Pew Research Center, nearly 70 percent of adults aged 65 and older now use the Internet, which is a 55 percent increase from just two decades ago. Furthermore, four in 10 seniors now own smartphones, making social media more accessible to them than ever before. In fact, over three-quarters of Internet-connected older adults regularly go online—ranging from once a day to several times a day or more.

Why has social media caught on with seniors and what are the benefits of having a connected older generation?

Combatting loneliness and social isolation

In addition to a younger cohort of seniors embracing the Internet and regularly going online, seniors are now more receptive to utilizing social media as a way to maintain social relationships with friends and family members who may not live nearby. While digital communication is not a substitute for physical interaction, social media can still be a powerful tool in combatting loneliness and social isolation in seniors. And when seniors are communicating with others more often, the risk of depression, heart disease, stroke and other chronic health issues greatly decreases.

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Not only can talking with others via social media help curb the effects of social isolation and loneliness, but the Internet also provides seniors with countless ways to access information. By simply turning on a web-connected device, seniors can look up the latest news, catch up on celebrity gossip, contact their local congressperson, read a book, and more!

Brain Benefits

Just because someone has retired doesn’t mean that they want to stop learning. Online courses, blogs and newspapers are some of the ways that seniors are nourishing their brains. There are also many websites and applications that are specifically targeted to seniors to help improve brain health through interactive games.

In addition to physical exercise, engaging the mind in stimulating activities—whether it’s a discussion with a friend on Facebook, a lecture in an online class, or brain training games—can help improve cognitive function.

Self Expression

In general, social media has the ability to empower by providing users with a sense of global interconnectedness, and a feeling of increased control over personal perception. Even though the phenomenon of using social media to share art, personal achievements, and even selfies has largely been studied in young adults, it doesn’t mean that seniors aren’t partaking in the fun!

In fact, many seniors are taking selfies and sharing their paintings, poetry and more on social media sites. Selfies are an especially easy way for seniors to engage with their online community in a fun way. Whether it’s a way to connect with grandchildren or an exercise in self-expression, selfies can be a wonderful way for seniors to break barriers and engage with the world. That’s why Love & Company is sponsoring Senior Selfie Takeover, a fun event on National Selfie Day on June 21 to help break the stereotype of selfies being just for the younger generations. Several senior living communities are participating, including Atlantic Shores, The Village at Heritage Point, The Knolls, and Kendal-Crosslands.

How can the senior living field use social media to connect with seniors?

With more seniors online now than ever before, having desirable content—in the form of blogs, social media posts, and paid advertising aimed at prospects themselves—should be at the top of any senior living community’s priorities.

The assumption that the adult child is the only one turning to Google to research senior living communities is no longer true. The emergence of days like National Selfie Day and World Social Media Day is yet another sign that social media is an integral part of how humans interact. Adapting your community’s marketing efforts to reflect seniors’ changing online behaviors is an important strategy in preparing for the future.

If you would like to learn more about how Love & Company can help build your community’s social media and digital presence, please contact Tim Bracken at 410-207-0013 or Rick Hunsicker at 214-906-3801.

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