Accepted paper:

Social Media and the Age-Friendly Community


Philip Stafford (Indiana University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will review research regarding the use of social media for civic engagement by older adults.

Paper long abstract:

Much of the research into the use of social media platforms by older adults focuses on the creation and maintenance of virtual communities that serve personal needs and desires for social interaction with family and friends. As is clear from watching worldwide political events, however, social media play an increasingly significant role in civic engagement. Older people have traditionally assumed predominant roles in multiple political realms, but are underrepresented as users of social media. It is worth asking whether gerontocratic influences have waned as a consequence of their lagging behind youthful users and, secondarily, whether there are technological or social trends at work to counter such a diminishment of influence.

The WHO Age-Friendly Cities worldwide initiative counts civic participation as a key indicator of "age-friendliness." This paper will address the uses of social media by older people for purposes of civic engagement.It will then introduce and describe multiple leading edge examples of the use of social media for civic engagement by and with older adults.

In a review of the uses of social media for civic engagement by older adults, the author will discuss the challenges encountered in getting older adults on line as well as strategies employed to successfully increase those numbers. Current research conducted by the author indicates that, to be successful, on- line civic engagement needs to be embedded within a broader and wholistic community participation strategy that meets multiple social needs. It will be noted that older adults use of social media is rapidly increasing without any intervention as broadband becomes available.

panel LD28
Ageing and the digital life course (IUAES Commission on Ageing and the Aged)