Not just youngsters, senior citizens are turning out to be Facebook's fastest growing community, say researchers including an Indian-origin team member, suggesting that the elderly are joining Facebook for the same reasons that prompted teenagers to join it over a decade ago.
According to S Shyam Sundar, professor at Pennsylvania State University, older adults who are motivated by social bonding and curiosity tend to use Facebook as a form of social surveillance.
"Surveillance is the idea that you're checking out what people are up to. This is something that many older adults do. They want to see how their kids are doing and, especially, what their grand children are doing," said Sundar.
Earlier studies suggest a positive relationship between bonding and bridging social capital and Facebook use among college students. "Our study extends this finding to senior citizens," added Eun Hwa Jung, mass communication researcher at Penn State.
The researchers found that the desire to stay connected to family and keep in touch with old friends or social bonding was the best predictor of Facebook adoption and use, followed closely by the desire to find and communicate with like-minded people or social bridging.
Curiosity is another motivation for senior Facebook users, Jung added. The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, found that senior citizens were not motivated to actively participate on Facebook when family and friends prod them to use the website.
"When senior citizens respond to requests to join Facebook, that tends to be a negative predictor of use," Sundar said. "In other words, they are not intrinsically motivated to participate when someone else requests that they join."
Older adults also tend to use Facebook features that their younger counterparts favour. According to the findings, seniors visited Facebook 2.46 times a day and stayed on it for a little over 35 minutes each day.
"This isn't just a fast-growing market, but also a lucrative one. Older adults have much more disposable income than teens and college students and would be more desirable for advertising," Sundar noted. The team suggests that designers of social media sites should emphasise on simple and convenient interface tools to attract older adult users.