The 60-plussers of today are more active and socially connected than ever before. But what happens with all their social contacts when they stop working or become less mobile? The TAO-team showed that 60plussers have a lot to gain from joining online communities.
Could online communities (i.e. communities where most contact takes place online) like Wikipedia or Seniorweb support the social needs of the so-called “best-agers”? After three years of highly innovative research, the TAO-team found that active participation in online communities may indeed enrich the lives of older adults, because online communities are able to accommodate many of their specific needs.
People over 60, like all people, want to feel independent, experience a sense of community, make autonomous choices and undertake new challenges. Very often, they get these experiences from their everyday activities. But when their social environment changes (e.g. retirement) or they become less mobile (e.g. when providing care for a family member), online communities may offer 60+ people an additional way to fulfill these needs. Some communities focus on social contacts, others on the transfer of knowledge or offer specific opportunities for volunteer work (e.g. writing texts or organizing real-life meetings).
Why do people over 60 not participate more often in online communities then? Our findings show that the barriers are not so much of a technical, but rather a social nature: “I don’t see the use”. Until today, most online communities fail to clearly communicate what an (older) visitor has to gain by joining.
To assist online communities, the TAO-team has developed a practical online Handbook, which targets management and staff of online communities, is free and accessible to everyone. It offers clear guidelines on a wide range of topics, from volunteer management to technical usability and business models. Because it is clear as well, not only do seniors have something to gain online, but also online communities and their members may benefit from this enormous new target group. The scientifically researched insights in the Handbook could therefore help communities to adapt their websites to meet the requirements of this group.
More info? Have a look at the TAO-Handbook.