Determinants of Online and Offline Social Support among Older Adults

Beatriz Sofia BS Gil Clavel , Max Planck Institute for demographic Research
Emilio Zagheni, Max Planck Institute for demographic Research
Valeria Bordone, University of Vienna

Scholars have found that the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) by older populations is related to an enhanced quality of life. This is believed to result from the emotional support and access to information that these technologies offer. Social Network Sites (SNS) play an important role among ICT resources that older adults have access to, as they help older adults to overcome perceptions of social isolation and loneliness. For this work we use data from the Facebook Marketing Application Programming Interface (API) and from the Survey for Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) to study the characteristics that, (1) explain older people’s use of internet and Facebook; and (2) explain older people’s social support. Preliminary results suggest that Facebook does not act as an equalizer: highly educated older people have more friends both online and offline. However, social network sites seem to open opportunities for older women, who may compensate for the lack of offline networks with larger online ones, when they are either migrants or mothers of migrants. Methodologically, we provide a novel approach to analyze and interpret publicly available Facebook data with standard statistical tools.

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 Presented in Session 83. Health and Wellbeing in a Digital World