When we already have what is needed

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Online social networking is one of the most interesting and exciting Internet developments of recent years. Usage of sites such as Facebook and MySpace has exploded. At some point, it would be worth asking: what can online social networking can do for older people?

The ILC-UK think-piece – Retirement Capital and Online Social Networking – published today, attempts to give one answer to this question. But actually, this publication is about a lot more than that. It would be a mistake to only view the scope of online social networking through its use by younger people. This technology creates startling new possibilities for communication and exchange, and that is what the publication is about.
Several reviewers of this think-piece have suggested the ILC-UK should start its own online social networking site for older people to engage in intergenerational communication. However, maybe this sort of suggestion misses the point. The infrastructure is already out there on the web; online social networking sites already exist and are free to use. This is what makes it an interesting opportunity: there are no major costs or investments required. The challenge is to make use of what is there. 

James Lloyd

5 thoughts on “When we already have what is needed

  1. Sue Bell said:

    Many thanks for the opportunity to comment. I have looked at these communication networks for potential connection with people I willnot meet face-to-face and for marketing my business work. I can normally interact with people of all ages without any thought about age or our possible age differences. On these social networks I did not find any connections I could easily make contact with. Is it because there is no particular subject to relate within? Is it that i need to learn new communication skills, not technologically, there is a shorthand speak that I might miss because my concepts of conversation are different? Is it the apparent extreme youth via photos puts me off?
    I still would like you to consider creating your own social network and I will explore again with my new perspective after reading you comment.

    With thanks

    Sue Bell

  2. Chris Lewin said:

    I enjoyed your paper and thought it had an important message. If an online service such as you suggest is implemented, it will be necessary to have some mechanism to enable enquirers to sort out which of the multitude of retired helpers can best meet their needs. If this cannot be done quickly and easily, the system will not be used. There may therefore need to be a well-defined keyword system. Moreover, it may be that there should also be a feedback system, as in ebay, to enable the usefulness of the help given to be assessed for the benefit of future potential users.

    At what point should help start to become paid? Should it be possible for helper and enquirer to agree to go “offline” into a paid relationship, or should this be prohibited?

    Rather than trying to interest governments, might there be commercial sponsors willing to take up the idea on the basis of advertising revenue? What about a new Google service, for example?

  3. Mark Atherton said:

    For a long time I have always thought that the ability to collaborate with people is one of the biggest benefits of the Internet. In the case of older people who perhaps feel isolated the potential benefit to them is much greater. The important thing to keep in mind however is that allot of older people feel that the Internet is of no interest to them and that they would not be able to use it. After volunteering a number of times in AC Southwark it is fast becoming apparent to users that this not the case. However it is imperative that the system is intuitive, well designed and easy to use.

  4. Noreen Siba, ILC-UK said:

    There continues to be interest in the use of online social media by older people.

    The BBC’s Technology correspondent has written a piece called “Too old for networking?”, asking whether sites such as MySpace and Bebo are just for the under-25s.

    You can download the article here:


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