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Social Networking Among Older Adults Nearly Doubles

September 7, 2010

Though young adults remain the heaviest users of social networking sites, older users are fueling much of the growth: 42% of online adults age 50+ now use social networking sites, nearly twice as many as the 22% who did so a year earlier, according to a study by Pew Research.

Looking to connect with friends and family, older adults are now the fastest-growing demographic among social networking users: 47% of surveyed online adults age 50-64 say they use social networking sites, up 88% from the 25% who did so in April 2009. That trend is even more dramatic among the oldest online adults: 26% of those age 65+ use social networking sites, up 100% from 13% a year earlier.

By contrast, 86% of online adults age 18-29 say they use social networking sites, up just 13% from the 76% who did so a year earlier.

Below, other findings from the study Older Adults and Social Media, issued by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Among older adults, email is the most common way to stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues: 60% of online adults age 50-64 and 55% of those age 65+ say they exchange email on a typical day.

But many older online adults also rely on social networks to help manage their daily communications:

  • 20% of online adults age 50-64 say they use social networking sites on a typical day, up from 10% who did so a year earlier.
  • 13% of those age 65+ say they use social networking sites on a typical day, up from 4% a year earlier.
  • 11% of online adults age 50-64 and 5% of those age 65+ say they use Twitter or another status update service to share updates about themselves, or see updates about others.

Online news gathering also ranks highly in the daily media habits of older adults: 76% of online adults age 50-64 say they read news online, and 42% do so on a typical day. Among those age 65+, 62% look for news online and 34% do so on a typical day.

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  • by Scott Paley Tue Sep 7, 2010 via web

    I'm curious how the question was exactly asked. I know a lot of people in my parents' generation that are on Facebook, for example. If you ask them if they're on Facebook, therefore, they will tell you yes. However, they rarely use it. They occasionally lurk, but that's it. They are hardly engaged.

    Having a social media account is not the same thing as being an engaged, active participant. I'd be more interested to see an age breakdown of engaged users.

  • by Lenna Wed Sep 8, 2010 via web

    You raise a fair point on just having an account vs. being an active, engaged user. No additional data there. But here is the question posed by Pew research: "(Please tell me if you ever use the Internet to do any of the following things.) Do you ever use the Internet to...use a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or Did you happen to do this yesterday, or not?"

    A similar question was posed for Twitter, online banking, etc.

    In Pew Internet surveys, Internet users are asked about their activities in several ways. One question is whether they were online and performed an activity “yesterday” – that is, the day before the respondent was contacted for the survey. Pew views answers to the “yesterday” question as illustrating a “typical day” online.

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