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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2013 Sep;68(5):773-82. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbt059. Epub 2013 Jul 3.

Probing the audience of seniors' online communities.

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Department of Communication Studies and The Center for Multidisciplinary Research in Aging, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, PO Box 653, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel.



Participation in online communities that are dedicated to older adults is a significant trend in elders' use of the Internet. The present study aimed to explore the audience of these communities and to discover possible subsegments within that audience and the differences among them.


The study was based on an online survey of 218 members of 16 English language-based seniors' online communities.


Analysis demonstrated that the audience of the communities is not homogeneous, as 3 segments of community members were identified: information swappers, aging-oriented, and socializers. These groups differed in their interests, background characteristics, and participation patterns. In addition, results indicated significant differences between the groups in perceived benefits. The socializers were those who reported the highest level of gratification. The aging-oriented reported more "companionship" than the information swappers, and the latter reported more "joyfulness" than the aging-oriented.


The results suggested that members of seniors' online communities actively select community contents that best meet their psychosocial needs and use the communities interchangeably with other media and activities. Such purposeful use of the communities becomes an integral part of the strategies they utilize in order to cope with later life circumstances.


Audience research; Coping; Internet; Online communities; Successful aging.

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