From an AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) April 5 tweet: Boomers *are* exploring technology and media – for themselves and sometimes to continue the relationship with their kids/grandkids. But it seems they have a lot of work to do to catch up with the younger generation.
I’ve been attending a lecture series at the University of Washington called “Storyteller Uprising,” which looks at the effects of technology and social media on political change, the delivery of news and the news that is delivered, community engagement, and community development. It also covered legal issues involved in communicating via social media. Speakers are connected to the University of Washington’s Department of Communication. Their thoughts on “communication in the digital age” can be found on their Flip the Media blog.
One of the speakers, Professor David Domke, showed us a bar graph clearly demonstrating that people over the age of 49 are not early adopters of technology and social media. And as new technologies, for example, smart phones, or new forms of social media become available many older adults are not engaging with them at all. (To any of us who are over 49 this is probably not a surprise; there’s a lot to learn and it’s hard to keep up with the changes, particularly when you’re not in the workforce.) Each age group was represented in the graph, but the bars in the categories that followed “30-49 years old” were much shorter, indicating much less involvement with various forms of technology and social media than the younger groups.
Professor Domke also talked about other behaviors associated with those under and over 49, which had implications for organizations that rely on members for their continued existence. These behaviors also will impact elections. He characterized the over 49ers as operating from a sense of duty and under 49ers as being more oriented toward relationships. The former, my group, vote because we feel it’s our civic duty. We join churches and other organizations because, again, it’s expected of our generation. The under 49ers, on the other hand, live by social media, do not join groups, because they rarely support everything the group does and prefer to pick and choose elements they like from different groups. Also, they only get involved in politics when a particular issue or a candidate sparks their interest, as Barack Obama did in 2008. In fact, the data show that it was younger voters who were responsible for President Obama’s win.
Questions that come to mind from this research are: Does it matter if older folks don’t jump on the social media bandwagon? Will they be left out of a critical information loop in the event of an emergency or miss out on new forms of social support? What will our society look like in the future if people don’t join churches, PTAs, or garden clubs, that is, organizations that need members and volunteers to carry out their missions, or is it just a fact that due to social change, these groups will cease to operate in the future. What about the agencies that rely on them, such as schools or parks departments? Will they have to find new ways to fund programs and attract free labor?