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Baby Boomers taking to social media in greater numbers

Older adults are more connected than ever before, says Ofcom, with almost half of 65 to 74-year-olds now having a social media profile

The cliché of embarrassing older relatives appearing on Facebook has been around for a few years now, and increasingly there is some truth to it, according to telecoms regulator Ofcom, which has just published its annual Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes report.

The report, which was compiled from data collected during two different studies between autumn 2016 and February 2017, found that record numbers of older people in the UK are now embracing social media, with 48% of online Baby Boomers – 65 to 74-year-olds – having their own profile, and 41% of over-75s.

Most of these profiles were found on Facebook, to which about nine out of 10 social seniors gravitate. Only 6% were to be found on WhatsApp, and just 1% on Instagram.

However, older people were still spending much less time online in an average week than young adults – around 15 hours compared with 32 hours among 16 to 24-year-olds.

“The UK’s older generation is beginning to embrace smart technology, and using it to keep in touch with friends and family,” said Ofcom head of media literacy, Alison Preston.

“But some older people lack confidence online, or struggle to navigate search results. Many are new to the internet, so we would encourage people to help older friends or family who need support getting connected.”

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According to Ofcom, one-fifth of over-65s said they lacked confidence online, especially when it came to managing their personal data, or considering the privacy implications of posting photographs on social media.

Others expressed concerns over how to differentiate sponsored links from genuine search results, or how to recognise targeted advertising compiled from their browser cookies.

Despite the adoption of social media and smart devices among older people – 39% of Baby Boomers and 15% of over-75s now own a smartphone – 56% of over-75s do not go online at all, and of those, 86% said they had no plans to.

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