[Air-L] Social media for elderly people

Di Shaw di.shaw at adelaide.edu.au
Wed Dec 15 15:12:04 PST 2010

Hello Everyone,

I would like to introduce myself to this very supportive and knowledgeable
community. My name is Diane Shaw (not sure what will show up when I hit the send
button!), and I am doing a PhD at the University of Adelaide (Anthropology). I
have recently completed 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork studying the
online/offline social interactions of older people. My primary focus has been on
Australians between the ages of 65 and 85 who are on a social networking site
for older people (40 plus). Working closely with older people online and offline
has been incredibly rewarding, and has produced some startling and exciting
results. Significantly, being online and socially connected to others is an
incredibly meaningful part of my participants’ everyday lives.

A recent post from Kelly asking for references on social media and the “elderly”
has prompted me to contribute to the list. I also had difficultly finding
quality articles on older people using the Internet to connect socially. (As an
aside, it is interesting to note that even the more senior of my participants
(85 year olds) as well as the broader community in my study, do not consider
themselves “elderly”, preferring the title of senior.) Listed, below, are some
references that may be useful.

Dell, P. (2008) Acting your age: a study of the relationship between online
social interaction and identity in older adults. PhD thesis. Murdoch University

Furlong, M. (1989) An electronic community for older adults: the seniorNet
network. Journal of Communication, 39:145-53.

Kanayama, T. (2003) Ethnographic research on the experience of Japanese elderly
people online. New Media Society, 5:267-288.

Malta, S. (2007). Love Actually! Older adults and their romantic Internet
relationships. Australian Journal of Emerging Technologies and Society,

Mellor, D., Firth, L., and Moore, K. (2008). Can the Internet improve the
well-being of the elderly. Aging International, 32:25-42.

Stalp, M., Williams, R., Lynch, A. and Radina M. (2009). Conspicuously
consuming: the Red Hat Society and midlife women’s identity. Journal of
Contemporary Ethnography, 38(2):225-253.

Torres, S. (2006). Different ways of understanding the construct of successful
aging: Iranian immigrants speak about what aging well means to them. Journal
Cross Cultural Gerontology, 21:1-23.

Xie, B. (2003). Older adults, computers, and the Internet: future directions,
Retrieved  20 July 2009, from www.gerontechjournal.net, 2(4):289-305.

Xie, B. (2007). Using the Internet for offline relationship formation. Social
Science Computer Review, 25(3):396-404.

I would just like to add that it has been my experience that in order to
understand older peoples’ participation with social networking sites (as well as
the Internet generally – emails, banking, information), it is important not to
isolate the use of current technology (computers and the Internet) from older
peoples’ past life experiences with using technology in general (work
experience, ham radio, pen-palling, cameras, telephones, washing machines, and
so on), or to ignore what we already know about social interaction amongst older
people (for example, support and sharing of knowledge – see Myerhoff, B. (1979)
Number our days. New York: E.P. Dutton).

Well, I’ve been a tad verbose! I hope the references provided help with the

Cheers, Di

di.shaw at adelaide.edu.au
Phd Candidate
University of Adelaide

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