The study followed 14 leading online seniors’ communities over a one-year period. Seven of the communities were from the United States, four were British, two were Canadian and one was Australian.
The results showed active participation in seniors’ online communities led to expanded social networks for older adults and greater opportunities for leisure activities. Studies indicate social relationships and leisure activities bestow protective benefits that can reduce the negative impacts of aging.
Dr. Galit Nimrod from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, conducted the research. It was published in the Gerontologist (Vol. 50, No. 3, 2010).
Six hot topics
The study found older adults were keen to talk about a variety of topics from difficult relationships to global warming. Popular items included the following:
1. Fun: The most popular topic was "Fun on line" with more than 140,000 posts. The members shared jokes, funny stories, riddles and online games.
2. Retirement: This item came in second with 94,000 posts. Members discussed the pros and cons of retirement and the best time to retire. They also talked about pensions, retirement rights and the best locations for retirement.
3. Family: This forum focused on spousal relationships, family relations and grandparenting. It attracted 77,000 posts.
4. Health: Members talked about beauty, nutrition and medical conditions in 56,000 posts.
5. Work and Study: This topic focused primarily on jobs and courses for retirees. It garnered 50,000 posts.
6. Recreation: Members recommended books, movies and TV programs, attracting 48,000 posts.
Though less popular, several other topics garnered a respectable number of posts. Among them: finance, religion, technology, aging, social issues, shopping and travel.
Fun on the Web
According to the study, older people are drawn to online communities as a leisure activity that provides opportunity for social interaction and fun.
Members found comfort in sharing their emotions online with peers, who may have been through similar circumstances. The author noted that the popularity of light topics suggest online communities offer older adults opportunities for play and relief and distraction from stressful situations.