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Social media can provide a venue for older adults to challenge ageism and influence public policies

Trentham, B, Sokoloff, S, Tsang, A, & Neysmith, S.  Social media and senior citizen advocacy: An inclusive tool to resist ageism?  Politics, Groups and Identities . 2015; 3(3): 558–571.

Review question

      What is known about the use of social media by older adults for the purposes of advocacy?


      With the aging population, social media has become a potential outlet of advocacy for senior citizens looking to influence policymaking.

      Yet, the engagement of senior citizens in advocacy is often overlooked despite their willingness to engage with social media.

How the review was done

      A detailed search of a number of electronic databases was conducted to identify relevant studies. Studies that focused on social media, blog, senior, senior citizen, older adults, elderly, ageism, advocacy, political activism, and activism were included in the review.

      This systematic review was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

What the researchers found

      The review revealed that the digital divide, or the exclusion from social media, is more predominant as age increases. In addition, the limited desire or financial means to own a smart phone or computer inhibit the ability of older adults to use social media.

      Older adults are concerned about the trustworthiness of social networking sites and social media.

      The longer someone is not using new technological advances, the more he/she will become “digitally disengaged.”

      The roles of older adults are generally depicted in the literature as consumers of health information or socializers with family and friends.

      The design of computer hardware, online formats and norms for social engagement are often guided by ageist assumptions.


      In conclusion, there are limited studies focused on the use of social media by older adults to promote advocacy. In many cases, the use of online social platforms by older adults is studied as a means to prevent social isolation.

Related Topics


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (

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