This report has been in the news for a couple of days and is flagged predominantly to draw attention to the 150% rise over two years (in the USA) of over 65s using social media. Note that the time span for this is 2009-2011. You’ll find links to it all over the place, this one lays it out quite plainly .
I thought it was interesting to note that older people use email less intensely on a daily basis than ‘all adults’ – I would have thought that would be because a huge percentage of email on weekdays across all adults is done in a work context.
Aside from that, I also felt slightly underwhelmed that this was news at all really. Older internet users don’t all live in caves cut off from the rest of society. And older internet users who are confident online will, like users of any age, experiment with new applications and adopt new and evolving media as any other age group. If social networking has grown hugely in the last few years across all internet users, is it not only logical that this will be reflected across all age groups. Why are people amazed that, once you’ve taught an old dog new tricks, it’s curious to expand its repertoire?
The real point here to my mind is all about skills and confidence. Once people have them, whether that be to manage Spotify playlists or to make cakes, then – and particularly if they have access to good ongoing support, further information etc – there is a natural tendency to expand and extend the skills set. Who doesn’t enjoy making a cake that turns out well and is delicious? Who’s not going to want to share photos with friends and family online once they’ve worked out how to do it? Enjoying the application of your digital skills is not related the number of your birthday candles.
Someone tell us something we don’t know. Like, how are we going to get the less digitally confident, and the people who’d like to go online but who are still trepidacious, whizzing around the net with panache and aplomb, saving money, having choice, wielding civic powers, keeping mentally alert, feeling less lonely and isolated? That seems to me to be, still (and with the advent of universal credit which will only be delivered online, increasingly so) the most pressing question. And not least because unless it can be achieved, the fabled and miraculous cost saving efficiencies that online promises a heavily indebted government are but (non digital) pie in the sky.