Can Facebook Help Reduce Loneliness Among the Elderly?

With the launch of the digital tool “Senior Citizens’ Guide to Social Media” in Norway, Telenor wants to encourage the elderly to become more active online. In a large survey of the online habits of the elderly, almost 70% said that they currently don’t use social media.

The use of social media among the over 65s in Norway is low, according to a survey conducted by Respons Analyse on behalf of Telenor. Now the telecoms company wants to help more elderly people to socialise online.

 ’We believe that every elderly person can benefit from socialising online from time to time. By becoming more familiar with social media it can be easier to stay in touch with friends and loved ones, even when it isn’t possible to be physically present,’ says Berit Svendsen, CEO of Telenor Norway.

 The higher the age, the lower the knowledge and use. While one in three aged 65-70 used social media, just 20 per cent of those aged 75-85 do so. One in three of those over 75 responded that they didn’t know what social media was.

‘It’s nice that Telenor helps to raise awareness among seniors about social media through its “Senior Guide for social media.” By using technology, the elderly people have an opportunity to stay in touch with friends and family, and they easily can enter into a dialogue with past and new acquaintances,’ said Secretary General of the Red Cross, Åsne Havnelid.

 The generation gap

Of those aged 65-85, 27 per cent said that they spend some time alone and that they would like more contact with family and friends. Loneliness increases with age, more than one in three of those over 75 responded that they would like more contact with family and friends.

 Of the elderly who use social media, two in three stated that they did so to stay in touch with family and friends. This applied particularly to the most elderly. 82 per cent of those over 75 responded that they used social media as a social aid.

 ‘To many seniors, loneliness is a strain. To help older adults to become more comfortable with social media can be an effective measure in the fight against loneliness. Technology can make it easier to stay in touch with family and friends,’ says Åsne Havnelid.

 ’As a channel of communication, the Internet is of course no substitute for visits and close contact, but it can be an alternative at those times when one would otherwise be alone,’ says Svendsen.

 Perceived generation gap

The recent survey also shows that there is broad agreement among the elderly that the Internet and social media have created a generation gap. A total of 65 per cent of respondents over 65 fully or partially agreed with this.

 ‘Probably, more knowledge in this area could also help lessen the perceived distance between the generations,’ says Havnelid.

‘We hope that today’s grandchildren will help us to train the grandparent generation in how to get online. If there is anyone who really knows how to socialise on digital platforms, it’s them,’ urges Svendsen.

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