Baby boomers' social media use focus of survey

More than 3000 baby boomers will be surveyed on their social media use and aspirations for independent living in a Massey University study.

The Inclusion, Contributions and Connections (ICC) study co-led by Associate Professor Christine Stephens and Associate Professor Fiona Alpass, from the School of Psychology, received $598,629 in funding in this year’s science investment round.

Dr Stephens says the study will build on a longitudinal study of older people Massey researchers started in 2006.

Participants will be asked in postal or online questionnaires about paid and voluntary work, their aspirations for independent living and their opportunities to use digital media.

Massey researchers are perfectly positioned to find answers as they have been following the 3200 baby boomers for eight years. They first surveyed the group in 2006 when they were aged 55-70, then again in 2008, 2010 and 2012.

This will be the fifth time the group has been surveyed. "We’ve been tracking them across these changes in their life, now when we ask them about their aspirations for independent living, their social connections and their work, and voluntary work activities, we can place it on the background of what we already know, which makes the answers really powerful," Dr Stephens says.

The questionnaire will be piloted in April with 600 participants, and then rolled out late 2013, and for the first time partners will be invited to take part adding a new dimension. A dedicated website will also provide immediate feedback and be a forum for older people to share their views on the findings.

Dr Stephens says the research will address important topics, where little is known. "We have a sense these days more people are online, more older people are engaged in various way, but exactly where their preferences lie, how they’re using it, how it’s part of their lives, or what difficulties they have with it - and who doesn’t have access?

"I think these are important questions and we don’t know the answers," she says, adding it will also be interesting to see how and where people see themselves living as they get older.

The findings and feedback will be shared with government ministries, district health boards, city and district councils and community and social service providers, and used to develop policies to support the active engagement of older people in society.