42% of U.S. Adults Age 50 and Older Now Use Social Networks

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has release a new report that shows remarkable growth in social networking use among older U.S. adults.  The report is primarily based on data from telephone interviews  April 29 and May 30, 2010, among a sample of 2,252 adults, age 18 and older.

According to the report, social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010.  Among internet users ages 50-64, social networking use grew by 88%–from 25% to 47%.  During the same period, use among those ages 65 and older grew 100%–from 13% to 26%.  By comparison, social networking use among users ages 18-29 grew by 13%—from 76% to 86%.

One in five (20%) online adults ages 50-64 say they use social networking sites on a typical day, up from 10% one year ago. And the use of status update services like Twitter has also grown—particularly among those ages 50-64. One in ten internet users ages 50 and older now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others; among users aged 50 – 64, there has been a 120% increase in the use of status update services.

The authors of the report offer three theories for why the use of social media tools is growing so dramatically among older adults:

  1. Social networking users are much more likely to reconnect with people from their past, and these renewed connections can provide a powerful support network when people near retirement or embark on a new career.
  2. Older adults are more likely to be living with a chronic disease , and those living with these diseases are more likely to reach out for support online.
  3. Social media bridges generational gaps, providing the opportunity to share skills across generational divides.

To download the full report, click here: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Older-Adults-and-Social-Media.aspx.