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The Silver Surfers: How Social Media is Captivating Older Generations

Updated: Jan 21

In today's fast-paced digital age, it's no secret that social media has become an ubiquitous part of our lives.

It's the virtual playground where we share our moments, connect with friends and family, and stay updated with the world. But have you ever wondered just how far-reaching the influence of social media truly is?

Man using social media

According to the latest research by Statista, Facebook is the most popular social media followed by YouTube, out of global social media audience of 4.59 billion people!

A report on the Digital Lives of Older Australians by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in 2021 estimated 41% of older adults aged 75 and over, used social media in 2020 compared to 18% in the previous year. Additionally, one in three increased their usage of social apps with Facebook being the most popular at 93%, followed by YouTube (73%) Instagram (57%) and WhatsApp at (48%) (Chanthadavong 2021).

Although COVID-19 restrictions largely attributed to the social media uptake, trends indicate that older adults will continue to increase their social media use and engagement along with the global population.

Staying Connected

Social media is important for older adults to stay connected and services like Facebook Messenger and What’s App facilitate this for older adults.

The ACMA report stated that keeping connected with others was a key factor for 77% Australians who used social media to make voice calls, video calls or send messages in 2020.

Interestingly, new figures suggest that Facebook growth has slowed down compared to streaming and video apps.

Streaming Entertainment

The growth for streaming entertainment especially in older age groups includes online subscription services, catch-up television, online platforms like YouTube and free video content and this trend has been rising since 2017 according to the The Pew Research Organisation.

Although 64% of older adults aged 75 years plus have at least one paid entertainment subscription, watching free to air television is still preferred over streaming and internet usage (Deloitte Media Consumer Survey 2022), which could be due to their trust in the content, habitual behaviours, cost associated with subscription services and complexity to set up, especially if not digitally savvy.

Social Media apps

Social media apps however are becoming an increasingly dynamic space according to Deloitte’s 2022 Digital Media Trends.

Compared to streaming entertainment, the attraction of social media is its portability, variety, and ease of use:

  1. Social media is free and doesn’t take up a lot of download time or speed.

  2. Not only is the content on social media becoming more snackable and bite sized, it can be easily viewed on a mobile phone or tablet.

  3. Content is personalised to each user’s viewing history and provides a smorgasbord of choice such as listening to music, reading material, news, television shows, internet surfing and playing games.

It's fun!

And let’s not forget that using any type of social media is fun. It makes you laugh as you watch the latest reels in your TikTok or Instagram feed, you can to try a new recipe you found on Pinterest, watch YouTube to find out how to plant a new type of vegetable or you can see all the latest holiday pics from your friends or family on Facebook.

In fact, results from research by Fu and Zie (2021) found that there was a significant positive relationship between social media use and the health of older adults.

Live Experience Learning

Whether older adults are using social media to stay connected, stream entertainment or just to have fun, it is becoming an increasingly popular option to gain new digital skills and confidence through Lived Experience Learning.

With the added bonus of having positive mental health outcomes and promoting social inclusion, it looks like this form of digital learning is here to stay. This is good news for older adults and provides engagement opportunities for training organisations and service providers.

We hope you found this blog valuable. Please scroll down to leave a comment, share through your network and find other resources on our page.


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