Can social media help us care for an ageing population?
In both the U.S. and Europe there is a trend towards an ageing population. It is predicted that by 2030 adults over the age will account for nearly 1/5 of the U.S. population. In Europe the trend is even more pronounced, with 17% of the population consisting of adults 65 and over in 2010, a number that is expected to swell at high as 30% in 2060. There are a number of challenges associated with an ageing population – one of which is isolation and lack of access. A study conducted in 2011 by the U.S National Council on Aging found that “one in six seniors living alone in the United States faces physical, cultural, and/or geographical barriers that prevent them from receiving benefits and services that can improve their economic security, and ability to live healthy, independent lives”
So, what does this have to do with the internet and social media? A study published this week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that an increasing number of older adults are going online, and more specifically are using social media. Over half of America adults over the age of 65 use the internet and email, and over 1/3 use social networking sites. This represents a dramatic increase over previous years. With growing numbers of older people going online, it seems that the internet and SNS sites such as Facebook may prove to be a valuable tool for taking care of an ageing population. These tools might be used to allow housebound individuals to stay in better touch with family and friends, or may help otherwise isolated seniors have access to a greater array of benefits and services. They could also serve as a low cost way of providing information in a variety of different languages, which could be particularly useful for ageing immigrant population.
What do you think? Can online tools help us take better care of an ageing population?