Facebook is 15 years old this year. So not even a decade ago, the bucket of users in the 55+ category was nearly empty.
Today the numbers look very different. The number of 55+ users surged and became the second-biggest demographic of Facebook users in 20181. Presumably being been drawn in by memes and dog pictures, just like the rest of us.
In fact, there’s a 99% likelihood my mom has already shared this post on Facebook.
Why this sudden rise in popularity?
It’s not uncommon that older generations are late to the internet party. Adoption tends to find its way through demographics eventually. My mom currently shares more posts and pictures than I ever did on Facebook.
When you have a new shiny toy, it’s hard to put it down. And surely we all remember how quickly Facebook spread thanks to network effects - the more friends got on, the more time we spent on there. And our parents’ generation is creating their profiles when Facebook is at its peak in terms of product maturity.
It’s sure is noticeable for everyone whose parents are engaged facebook users
I know for a fact I’m not the only one whose mom, aunts or uncle comments on five-year-old pictures, befriend my ex, or posts on friends’ walls, whom by the way they’ve never met in person.
Does the 55+ segment use Facebook differently?
Facebook is a much different product today compared to when it launched, the mobile apps, video experiences, and ad platform encourage different use by all of us. The older generation wants to keep up with the social lives of their friends, kids, and grandchildren.
But it’s not just about the intended uses of the platform
In a study, researchers found that people over 65 are more likely to redistribute fake news2. Even when controlling for ideology and other demographic attributes, the age effect was significant.
This is probably because they haven’t had enough experience in the consider the considerable variance in the credibility of online resources. Additionally, they may lack the skills to determine the veracity of online news in general.
Care(giv)ing in the form of tech support
Last week’s post dug into the topic of the different types of long-distance caregiving many expats provide their loved ones.
For any of us who have been called to help an older relative with technology, the stereotypes concerning an elder’s use of technology are familiar.
Designing digital product as “Boomer first”
In recent years there has been a significant shift in the tech industry in how digital products are being designed. Internet traffic coming from mobile devices is overtaking desktop traffic, and many companies agree they want to be “mobile first” to deliver on consumers’ growing expectations to the products they interact with.
While it’s unlikely that the majority of internet traffic will be from the baby boomers, even as they become the largest demographic. I firmly believe it is a huge missed opportunity not to be more mindful of this generation when we design products.
Boomer UX - Let’s help them help themselves in the future
The generation of elderly people living in nursing homes today rely on their caretakers, receptionist, or whoever is willing to help; to call them an Uber when they need a car. It shouldn’t be that way for our parents as they age. These new services should be accessible to everyone.
Our parents face unique challenges that younger groups don’t, as a result, they also face unique barriers to increased adoption of new products. Our parents’ learning curve is different simply because they didn’t grow up with touchscreens, social media, or trusting websites with their credit cards.
Once they’re able to overcome those challenges, they are highly receptive to it and can continue to be independent.
It’s also the business-smart thing to do
Additionally, the baby boomers are most countries’ largest demographic group. They are mature, flush with cash, and willing to spend it. In America, it’s reported that they control more than 54% of the nation’s wealth3. 72% of them are regular online shoppers, 89% of them are exposed to email marketing, 44% of them use smartphones, and 65% of them use social media.
Mon Tonton - Activist for digital inclusion
With some limited availability, Mon Tonton offers individual courses for digital education for seniors. We tailor the senior computer classes to lifelong students who want to continue to feel in an increasingly digital World by focusing on making it easy to ask questions.
As our community continues to grow, we want to connect savvy adults who wish to volunteer their help to those who need it.
If you’re interested in either of these programs - get in touch to learn more!
The Guardian article: Older people more likely to share fake news on Facebook ↩