Four recent studies found that older Americans are more likely to consume and share false online news than those in other age groups, even when controlling for factors such as partisanship. Other research has found that older Americans have a poor or inaccurate grasp of how algorithms play a role in selecting what information is shown to them on social media, are worse than younger people at differentiating between reported news and opinion, and are less likely to register the brand of a news site they consume information from.
Those digital and news consumption habits intersect with key characteristics of older Americans, such as being more likely to live in rural and isolated areas, and, perhaps in part as a result, to experience a high degree of loneliness. A survey conducted by AARP of Americans found that 36% of people ages 60–69 were lonely, while 24% of those ages 70 and older registered as lonely. (The survey focused on adults over 45.)
As a result, it’s now essential to better understand the effects of social media, loneliness, and a lack of digital literacy on older people, according to Vijeth Iyengar, a psychologist focused on aging at the US Department of Health and Human Services, and Dipayan Ghosh, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.