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Over 65s take up social media to avoid loneliness, study finds

Older people are using social media to keep in contact with the community.
Older people are using social media to keep in contact with the community. Alistair Brightman

AROUND 2.7 million Australians aged over 65 are avid users of the internet each day, according to a study by Whiddon's Social Isolation and Loneliness Report.

The report states this embrace of new technology helps them stay connected with loved ones and the community and less likely to experience feelings of loneliness than those who log on less.

Half of all Australians aged over 65 years (approx 1.7 million) experience feelings of loneliness.

Not knowing enough people, or anyone, in their neighbourhood is revealed as the most common reason for this demographic feeling isolated (46%), followed by a lack of transport, mobility or assistance to get out and about (37%).

Karn Nelson, Executive General Manager, Strategic Policy and Research, Whiddon, said the internet and social media is prevalent in all walks of life for people of all ages.

"As such, it is an avenue we are continuing to explore as a means of keeping our residents and clients connected with loved ones and the community," she said.

"It is so encouraging to witness the adoption of new technology in older Australians, helping them to stay in touch with loved ones and meet new people."  

The study found older Australians who are experiencing feelings of loneliness and who are active online are more likely to use the internet for social media (59% v 51%), suggesting they view it as an effective way of establishing and maintaining connections.

The results back this up, with 70 per cent of respondents saying it makes them feel less lonely.

Given this, it is not surprising that two thirds of those who are active on social media use it every day, while the remainder log on at least weekly.

"Every day we see that many of our residents and clients really relish the time they spend online and on social media as means of keeping up with their families - particularly grandchildren, near and abroad," Nelson said.

"It allows them to stay in touch more frequently and reach out further than ever before."

Additional findings

·     Internet is used most commonly for emails (97%), information searching (91%) and online banking (76%)

·     The main applications used by older Australians who use social media are Facebook (97%) followed by Pinterest (13%), Instagram (9%) and Twitter (9%)

·     Those who use social media (87%) are more likely than those who do not (77%) to use the internet every day

·     Women (66%) are more likely than men (56%) to say they feel connected to people when they use social media

·     Those aged 70 and older (67%) are more likely than those 65-69 (51%) to say they feel connected to people when they use social media

·     Those who are not working (64%) are more likely than those who are working (52%) to say they feel connected to people when they use social media

Topics:  general-seniors-news internet retirement-living social media technology whiddon group



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