People connect over a multitude of reasons, such as shared life stages, mutual interests, or even proximity. Over time, as we pass through life’s social structures, like school and work, we lose access to places where we more commonly meet and discover friends. This phenomenon especially applies to older adults, and in particular to those who have retired, moved away from family, or lost mobility. We’ve heard from older adults that they actively seek out opportunities to expand their networks and meet new people who share their interests and values. While new connections were once commonly made in person, older adults now turn to online solutions to broaden their networks, and the pandemic has only accelerated their openness and comfort with digital solutions.
Society forms communities by activities and age: Young people go to school, adults work and have families, older people retire. Older adults want to bridge this divide and interact with people younger than themselves, yet few places exist to do so. Older adults now use digital platforms, which host communities of all ages, to meet and make new connections. However, they often self-organize by age to find a sense of camaraderie and belonging. These platforms were designed for younger users, making older adults feel unwelcome and distanced from the wider community, and thus they create subgroups based on age. Older adults want ways to access and connect with a range of people over shared interests and values, but struggle to do so within the current constraints of digital platforms.

Older adults want ways to access and connect with a range of people over shared interests and values, but struggle to do so within the current constraints of digital platforms.

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