It’s easy to assume social networking is the domain of the young.

Generation Y might have grown up with social, but there’s a growing number of people over 60 for whom social media is every bit as important.

People over the age of 55 are the fastest growing group joining Facebook, according to research from Nielsen - and a survey by Kantar Media’s TGI MobiLens claims that people over 50 are more likely to use social networks on their mobiles than people under 30.

The ‘over 65’ group spends a reported 42 hours online every month, more than any other group. 

Research from myvouchercodes also suggests that 20% of grandparents are on a social network, of which 71% are part of Facebook, mostly encouraged by younger members of their families. Let’s hope their grandchildren remember that when oversharing on their status updates.
To help older people get online, Age UK is running a series of ‘Myfriends online’ weeks (the next one is coming up on 19th to 25th March). It’s also encouraging Facebook fans to become a digital champion and help an older friend, relative or neighbour learn how to use new technology.

Social media channels designed specifically for an older audience are springing up, from the purely social online communities (like Southwark Circle a neighbourhood-based community that aims to connect older people who live close to each other) to the more commercially-led, such as Saga’s online network, where people can discuss anything, with a few pointers towards pensions, insurance and holidays. All things that Saga sells, incidentally.

Plus, social channels can aid social change: Grey Pride, the lobby group championing rights for older people, uses an online community, forums, Twitter and blogs to campaign for a minister for older people. Gransnet – the offshoot of Mumsnet but for grandmothers – launched in 2011 with support from Nintendo and Pearson; it too combines social networking with campaigning and political clout, reflecting the power that this market has, both in terms of spend and influence.

And don’t assume that apps are the domain of the young, either: in a move of pure brilliance, Saga has launched a teenage slang translator app called ‘Woteva’, to help work out what your grandchildren (or children for that matter) are talking about.

Clearly, age on its own is no barrier to technical ability, and social media and online communities can be an incredibly effective way to reach an older audience, often with high spending power. Our population is aging – 40% of the UK population will be over 50 by 2035, according to the ONS – and so social media use within this group will only increase. Ignore it at your peril.

Internships for the 60+? Why not?