The Growing Relationships of Older Adults Through Tinder and Facebook by Sandra Diaz-Encina

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In older adults there often appears to be a missing piece in their puzzle of life.  That missing piece can be relationships with others.  Often times, as people get older acquaintances, friends, spouses and family are no longer an option to talk to.  Losing these groups of individuals could be due to death, moving in order to get needs taken care of, or perhaps the act of “drifting apart.”  Regardless of the reason the older generation commonly face the struggle of loneliness.   Although this problem is apparent there are some possible solutions, technology being an excellent one. Currently technology has become a definitive establishment in society and is heavily depended on.  Computers and smart phones appearing to be some of the most relevant and used.  Communication has become readily available through the mentioned devices and also simplified for easy use.  Older adults have been known to slowly begin participating in the new technology based era, yet with more participation the issue of loneliness can be assisted.  A factor to using technology is the use of websites and apps that revolve around communication. Two examples are the social media site Facebook and dating app Tinder.  Although these two applications of technology appear as unusual for an older person to use, they provide an outlet for communicating and socializing with others in a friendly or romantic way.  They are commonly used by younger people due to being introduced to technology from a very young age, yet the use for this group of people would be similar to older adults, socializing and networking.

Facebook is a site where status, picture, and video updates can be shared with a certain network of friends.  Also, sending private messages is possible through this social media platform.  The majority of users are younger adults, yet there is a wide range of participants including the older population. Facebook is more commonly used in order to build and maintain relationships in a way that is accessible to many not mattering location.  A cross-sectional and correlational study done by Sinclair & Grieve (2017), was conducted in order to review how social connectedness can come from using Facebook within middle to older aged adults, 55-81 years.  The 280 participants were all users of Facebook and were asked to complete a survey (Sinclair & Grieve, 2017).  The given survey consisted of asking questions regarding offline and online social connectedness which concerned how close they felt about their relationship with people on Facebook compared to in person (Sinclair & Grieve, 2017).  It was found that the majority of the participants had gained online connectedness with using Facebook (Sinclair & Grieve, 2017).  Also based off the results, the online connectedness was achieved and gained similarly to the offline connectedness which is face-to-face contact (Sinclair, Grieve, 2017).  This study done by Sinclair and Grieve (2017) shows a true benefit to older adults.  With older adults being able to gain relationships in terms of closeness of friends, can help this population with loneliness.  Many may say that meeting a new friend in person is more beneficial, yet this study proved that the feeling behind the friendship is the same even if it is done digitally (Sinclair & Grieve, 2017)With people that are older adults, expressing emotional support, appreciation, trust and loyalty is shown to be beneficialPeople who are younger use Facebook as a way to keep in touch and know what is going on with the people they already know.  Older individuals may do the same with the friends or family members that have left to live somewhere else, keeping in touch is much more attainable and convenient.

While Facebook is often used to keep in touch with known family and friends, the app Tinder is more focused on creating romantic relationships.  As people age there is the possibility of losing a spouse due to divorce, and death.  However, older adults are still capable to reconnecting with another individual at a romantic level.  The thought of the older population still wanting to engage in a romantic and intimate relationship is often seen as strange, or unusual.  This mindset is due to implicit stereotyping of older adults, which is a negative stereotype about aging and it is not true that they cannot engage in these types of relationships. This is where Tinder can come and help.  This app is more often used by young adults who use their information from Facebook to make an account and their location to be able to connect with people.  The possible candidates are found based on location, age, preferences, interests, and if they have any mutual friends.  A study in 2014 by Malta, and Farquharson, was done in order to further research new relationships within older adults.  45 participants were used with each individual being over the age of 60 and having or have had been in a new relationship recently (Malta & Farquharson, 2014).  Malta and Farquharson (2014) had organized for each participant to take a two-hour interview, being by phone, email, instant messaging or in person about their dating life.  After reviewing the results, they showed that the older adults had a preference for long-term relationships yet finding them is difficult due to them being more selective (Malta & Farquharson, 2014).  Also, it was discovered that every single participant was intimate with their current or most recent partner (Malta & Farquharson, 2014).  This study has shown that older adults do engage in romantic relationships and have similar interests in what they are looking for, all in contrast to the stereotype about older adults not being in relationships later in life. Since many in the older population are open to romantic relationships, accepting to use an online dating site or app like Tinder may help achieve what they are looking for.  Tinder is a fast and convenient app that connects people on numerous factors, which can help older adults find who they would enjoy having a committed relationship due to their selectiveness, or socioemotional selectivity in partners.

Technology has become a massive establishment in current society and keeping up with it can be beneficial. Facebook and Tinder are just two of the many outlets of technology that can be used by the older population.  These two applications may not be known to many older adults due to fast pace of growth from the products, in which keeping up with is difficult if not already in the scene of technology.  Either regular, casual friendships or romantic relationships can develop from the two resources for older adults and it can be done in a simple way.  Loneliness is prevalent in the individuals that are growing older and building relationships can be very beneficial yet initiating may be difficult. According to a different longitudinal study done by Pillemer and Holtzer (2015), it was found that perceived support from healthy and social relationships can help in providing intervention for older adults that are at risk of cognitive weakening. This health benefit can arise just from making friends and doing so is now made easy through doing it over the internet. The stereotypes that the older population are not looking for romantic relationships later in life can often result in stereotype threat.  If the participation of older adults increases in using the two applications, then the stereotypes would eventually have no influence.  Facebook and Tinder are most often used by younger adults, yet users can range in age. Those that are younger use the two social platforms in very similar ways compared to an older adult and accessibility makes it beneficial for all users. Age should not be a factor in determining what uses of technology are acceptable for use.

 

References

Malta, S., & Farquharson, K. (2014). The initiation and progression of late-life romantic relationships. Journal Of Sociology50(3), 237-251. doi:10.1177/1440783312442254

Pillemer, S. C., & Holtzer, R. (2016). The differential relationships of dimensions of perceived social support with cognitive function among older adults. Aging & Mental Health20(7), 727-735. doi:10.1080/13607863.2015.1033683

Sinclair, T. J., & Grieve, R. (2017). Facebook as a source of social connectedness in older adults. Computers In Human Behavior66363-369. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.10.003

 

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