By 2030, adults over 65, “silvers,” are projected to be the largest age group in the United States. Silvers are currently the dominant age group in Japan, Germany, Italy, and several Eastern European countries. This population is also rapidly adopting new media — the majority now own smartphones, nearly three-quarters use the internet regularly, and two-thirds report using social media platforms. While these technologies have the capability to do substantial good for silvers (e.g., facilitating social connectedness, easy access to information), silvers are disproportionately targeted by harmful and deceptive content online, including fake news, phishing, and a variety of sophisticated scams. Exposure to this content can be psychologically distressing, deteriorate trust in media and other institutions, and, in some cases, lead to devastating financial loss.
The Social Media Lab is currently working with not-for-profit senior-focused organizations in the Bay Area to better understand how silvers approach learning about new technologies through observation of technology tutoring programs (see above photo). In addition, we are collecting data on silvers’ consumption of fake news content in the lead up to the 2020 US presidential election to understand how disinformation targets seniors in today’s information ecosystem. The goal of this research program is to better understand what silvers think and feel about technology, how they engage with potentially harmful content online, and how we might be able to leverage the wisdom and experience of this population to empower them in their use of new technologies.