Senior Citizens with Alzheimer's - Social Media Analysis
Forty percent of seniors use social media, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Reddit. Unfortunately, no information was available in the public domain on the use of social media by patients with Alzheimer's disease or on the exact hour usage, and regional variations in the use of social media by senior citizens. Below is an overview of the findings.
Overview of Alzheimer's
- Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer's causes problems with thinking, memory, and behavior. Its symptoms progress slowly over time and interfere with daily tasks, eventually to a point where those affected can no longer interact with their environment.
- There are approximately 5 million people in the U.S. with age-related dementias. Approximately 70% of these cases are Alzheimer’s disease.
Seniors and Social Media
- Forty percent of Americans over the age of 65 report using social media.
- Of seniors who use social media, 46% use Facebook, 8% use Instagram, 11% use LinkedIn, 7% use Twitter, 15% use Pinterest, 3% use Snapchat, 38% use YouTube, 3% use WhatsApp, and 1% use Reddit.
- The use of Facebook for seniors has more than doubled since 2012, from 20% to 46%.
- Sixty-seven percent of seniors aged 54-72 (baby boomers) and 30% of seniors aged 73-90 (silent generation) own smartphones.
- Thirteen percent of baby boomers and 8% of those from the silent generation are smartphones only internet users.
- Sixty-six percent of baby boomers and 34% of the silent generation have home broadband.
- Sixty-eight percent of baby boomers and 63% of the silent generation believe the internet is good for society.
- Eight percent of senior internet users say they are on the internet constantly.
- Seventeen percent of senior internet users say they are online once a day and 51% say they are online several times a day.
- Of seniors who go online, 82% are aged 65 to 69, 75% are aged 70 to 74, 60% are aged 75 to 79, and 44% are 80 or older.
Using Social Media for Dementia and Alzheimer's
- Research shows that social contact for people with dementia tends to maintain their level of functioning longer, and social media can help with this.
- Facebook can help by using the "Memories" tab as it brings up posts from past years, promotes memories, and keeps them alive.
- Group messaging and private groups on Facebook link seniors to the most important people in their lives, giving them a place to communicate.
- Facebook games can allow seniors to play, which engages thinking skills.
- Pictures on Instagram are also a way to jog memories.
- A Pinterest search for new things can be a good way for cognitive and social engagement.
- One company, PRA Health Services, has begun searching for Alzheimer's patients and caregivers through social media, trying to determine their everyday struggles to determine where it can focus its research to meet the patient’s needs.
- Clinically trials suffer because of a lack of participants, and many recent Alzheimer's drug trials have failed or been stopped. PRA is looking to social media to put themselves on the right track for finding treatments for this disease.
Social Media for Seniors
- AARP has 2,043,526 followers on its main Facebook page, but it also has specialty pages and local chapter pages on Facebook.
- The Alzheimer's Association has 864,485 followers on its main Facebook page, but the page also includes a lookup for local chapters, some of which also maintain Facebook pages.
- A growing group on Facebook is the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers Support group. The closed group is three years old, currently with 48,077 members including 1,486 new members in the last 30 days.
- Instagram has several senior "influencers" including Helen Winkle with 3.8 million followers and George Takei with 1.1 million followers.
- Senior Planet, dedicated to working with technology and aging, has a Twitter page with 13,900 followers.
- Professor David Sinclair, PhD AO, is the author of the book and newsletter called Lifespan and works on aging. He has a Twitter page with 33,700 followers.
- There is a study regarding users on Twitter that have dementia behind a paywall.
We began our research reviewing scholarly studies from sources such as Pew Research, Science Direct, and Research Gate for reports on dementia or Alzheimer’s and social media but were unable to find any current studies. We expanded our search to seniors and social media and were able to find several current reports on Americans and internet use, which contained data on seniors and social media use. These figures are included in this brief. However, none of the studies made reference to dementia or Alzheimer’s and their use of social media or the exact hour usage or regional variations in the use of social media by senior citizens. We did find one study that concluded that social media can be beneficial to early dementia patients and that study is included in this brief. We also found one paywalled study on Twitter users who have dementia, which was also included in this report.
We then reviewed senior publications and sources such as AARP, the Alzheimer Association, Elder Care News, and Active Over 50 for articles regarding seniors and technology as well as articles on dementia and Alzheimer’s. We were able to find several articles that explain to seniors how to use technology for the first time, how to stay safe on the internet, the first signs of dementia, and support groups for dementia patients and healthcare workers, but we were unable to find articles that revealed how many senior users of social media have Alzheimer’s or the exact hour usage or regional variations in the use of social media by senior citizens.
We continued our search by reviewing media and marketing sources, such as Hootsuite, Mediakix, and SocialBakers, looking for information on marketing to seniors online. We found articles on recommended platforms for advertisers, but most of the statistics used were from information already cited in this report. Advertising regarding Alzheimer's patients was directed at caregivers, not the patients themselves, so no useful data regarding seniors with Alzheimer's using social media or the exact hour usage or regional variations in the use of social media by seniors was found.
Although there was information about the fact that seniors with Alzheimer's using social media can be beneficial to slow the progression of the disease, it appears that no current studies or articles have been written to show how many people with Alzheimer's are currently using social media.