Ellis Jones and Council on the Ageing (COTA) Victoria recently collaborated on a research study to test commonly held assumptions. The results remind us how quickly everyone is adopting online technologies. What may have been correct 12 months ago may be an assumption today. In an environment of rapid change affecting both industry and government, online community engagement has become increasingly important to ensure stakeholder participation.
Considerable research has been gathered on seniors’ internet use and we know that their personal access to and use of the internet continues its steady trajectory. However, there is little investigation on how they employ web 2.0 tools, such as those found on social media platforms, in their daily lives. Tools, which in recent times, have provided a platform to so many communities which previously struggled to have their opinions heard. 51% of Australia’s population is on Facebook and we do not consider seniors to be a part of this subset. There is an absence of detailed study around their participation in online discussions. This absence “assumes” that they do not use social media and therefore will not participate in online community consultation activities.
When presented with the fact that there are now over one million Australians over 60 on the Facebook platform, assumptions must be reviewed and activity reframed. The uptake of web 2.0 tools by older people has significant implications for communicators, advocacy groups, health professionals and other groups who have a community engagement mandate.
For older Australians, the opportunities to improve quality of life are significant.
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