If you spend any time on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve probably seen mentions of various reports confirming that indeed, older adults are taking the world of social media by storm.

Here are a few great reads that provide more detail on exactly how older adults are spending their time online – it’s fascinating stuff.

Pew Internet Survey of Adult Social Media Use:

  • 65% of online adults use social networking sites
  • 51% of those 50-64 and 33% of those age 65+ use social networking sites
  • In the past two years, social networking site use among internet users age 65 and older has grown 150%, from 13% in April 2009 to 33% in May 2011.
  • During this same time period, use by 50-64 year-old internet users doubled – from 25% to 51%.
  • Among the Boomer-aged segment of internet users ages 50-64, use of social networks on a typical day grew a rigorous 60% compared to one year ago.

Nielson State of the Media: The Social Networking Report:

  • Internet users over the age of 55 are driving the growth of social networking through the Mobile internet.
  • Over twice as many people aged 55+ visit social networking sites on their mobile phone than last year – a 109% increase in one year.

So it’s well-documented that older adults are embracing social media. That has all kinds of implications for aging – how well-connected we remain with friends and family, access to health and wellness resources online, engagement with virtual communities of people who share our interests and experiences as we age.

What does this mean for older adult service providers? Without hard data, it’s hard to tell, but it does seem as though the provider community is a bit behind when it comes to embracing the opportunities of social media to connect and engage with clients, residents, family members and the broader community.

That’s not to say there aren’t a lot of providers using social media in really interesting ways – they just don’t seem to be the majority. Part of the challenge likely is the fact that despite its rapid growth among older adults in the past few years, use of social media is still a fairly new phenomenon among this age group.

Social media is also a really important and effective way to connect with the next generation of the aging services workforce. Increasingly, access to professional networks, peer relationships, mentoring and continuing education happens online, often via social networking channels. In fact, the Nielson report confirms that more Americans visit Facebook while online than any other single web-based brand.

A few questions I’d love to know more about from you:

  1. Do you, your staff or your clients and residents use social media? If so, how? And what has been the result?
  2. If you don’t use social media to engage with residents and other community members, why not? Are there barriers or reasons you don’t?
  3. Are there any great examples out there that could inspire others? Your own approach or something you’ve heard about? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

And in case all of the data and reports aren’t enough to convince you that seniors are online in record numbers – have a look (and a laugh) for yourself: http://bit.ly/ni687f.

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