I set aside time on New Year’s Day to catch-up on reading, which seems like such a luxury these days. Recent posts on Flip the Media were on my list of must-reads. Katya Yefimova’s post, Why Seniors are Social Media’s Growing User Demographic, caught my eye. Katya cited Laura Carstensen, Director of the Center on Longevity at Stanford University, who was interviewed on NPR about the subject of digital technology and seniors.
Carstensen said in the interview with NPR’s Melissa Block: “I think one of the myths is older people just can’t manage technology because of cognitive deficits. But it appears that a bigger reason for the failure to use digital technologies is the lack of perceived need. For a lot of older people, they’re quite satisfied with their social relationships, their friendships, their contact with loved ones.”
Carstensen’s quote brought to mind Sherry Turkle’s somewhat controversial TED talk, Connected, But Alone? , filmed in February, 2012. In her work and in her talk, Turkle examines how our devices, online personas, and social media itself are redefining human connection and communication, sometimes not for the better. She describes new patterns of relating via technology that can lead to isolation and loneliness.
At one point Turkle says, “Human relationships are rich and they’re messy and they’re demanding. And, we clean them up with technology. And when we do, one of the things that can happen is that we sacrifice conversation for mere connection. We short-change ourselves. And over time, we seem to forget this, or we seem to stop caring.”
It’s understandable how this new technological approach to relationships, as described by Turkle, might not appeal to older people, many of whom have cultivated over time deeply satisfying and meaningful friendships.
Carstensen’s quote also brought to mind an insight from Judy Kinney, Executive Director of NEST (North East Seattle Together), whom I interviewed for my fall quarter video project for an MCDM class, “Multimedia Storytelling: People and Story”. The subject of our conversation was “how to be good at growing older”.
“There’s so much misinformation—that as you grow older you are diminished. And that just isn’t true. People can become more and more alive as they grow older.” And she said, “People who are good at growing older have strong relationships,” Kinney said.
Carstensen, Turkle, and Kinney point out that people value meaningful relationships. And, both Carstensen and Kinney observe that people do not necessarily lose their faculties as they age. Considering all of this, I leap to this hunch about why seniors are now the fastest growing group on social media: they are figuring out how to make technology work for them on their own terms and are learning to use technology to become more of who they already are.
I wonder what experts Carstensen, Turkle, and Kinney would say about that?
Hear more insights about “How to Be Good at Growing Older” from Judy Kinney of NEST here: