Background: The Internet and the use of Social Media has enhanced worldwide communications, entertainment, socialisation, education, and news. With mainstream use of the Internet is now evident, we are observing opportunities to use Social Media within the health domain. A specific area of interest is the consideration of how these technologies can be best used by elderly caregivers to facilitate social networking to encourage social connectedness and prevent social isolation. This is prevalent among elderly carers with 52% not having the support they require. Nevertheless, barriers remain in an elderly person's usage of Social Media. Reasons can be attributed to disinterest, inability to comprehend its purpose and fear in relation to security and privacy. To address these barriers, our current work hypotheses that specialist training to raise awareness of the opportunities offered by Social Media could aid in the adoption of Social Media amongst elderly carers.Objective: To investigate methods of increasing the adoption of Social Media among elderly carers of persons with chronic diseases.Methods: An introduction to Social Media training course was conducted during January 2013 at Inniscoole Day Centre in Rathcoole, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK. Participants were caregivers of persons with chronic diseases. Ten in total (n=10) were recruited, ages ranging from 45-85, (Mean=60, s.d.=0.70). One participant was excluded due to a form of visual impairment. Participants were asked to watch a presentation relating to Online Social Networks, Blogging and Online Photo Repositories, which included videos of each Social Media technology presented. Each service was subsequently demonstrated and verbal discussion with all participants was encouraged.Results: At the beginning of the course all participants specified they were novices regarding computer literacy, however, six participants specified that they had some understanding of Social Media. Four participants felt that Social Media was difficult for them to use and indicated that they would not use it to support real world connections. Following training, eight out of nine participants said they now had a better understanding of Social Media. Over half stated that it met their expectations in usefulness and they were more confident in using the technologies. They indicated that they were more likely to use it to communicate with friends and family in the future. Interestingly, seven out of nine indicated that they would be willing to attend more training in Social Media technologies with one person stating that they would sign up for Facebook, privately.Conclusions: Older people are not using Social Media technology. Our hypothesis was to provide training in order to increase the likelihood that people will engage with these services. The research community has divided elderly into the young old 65-74, the old-old, 75-85 and the oldest old 85 and older. Considering the participants in the current study and considering the various categories over half of the participants were between 41-60 with the average age of participants being 60. The findings for the study shows that adoption of Social Media in the elderly is significantly lower in comparison to usage with other assistive technologies.
Boyd, K., Nugent, C., Donnelly, M., Bond, R., Sterritt, R., & Gibson, L. (2013). Methods of Increasing Adoption of Social Media Among Elderly Carers. In Unknown Host Publication JMIR Publications. http://www.medicine20congress.com/ocs/index.php/med/med2013/paper/view/1683