Knock, Knock. Who’s There?

Some week ago, I was asked by a colleague in the aging field to consider serving on a panel on the use of the Internet by the older population, specifically, on how the Internet is creating a new ‘space’ for electronic elders, a la My Space.

No doubt people are jumping into that space. There was considerable buzz about the launch of, the social networking site dedicated to people 50+ (or, it was, but the last time I checked, it was 49+). The zippy slogan, ‘loving the flip side of 50,’ certainly is a grabber, and anything that founder, Jeff Taylor, would create, gets my attention. Eons was attracting money, too: $22M in the most recent round of financing. But from my own experience of writing a newsletter for the age group, I really wondered if there was a need for an age-segmented social networking site.

I signed up for Eons anyway (284 days ago, according to my profile), and joined five different groups — careers for the 50+, home-based business, books, yoga and long-distance grand-parenting — and after some interaction with other group members, I have to wonder along with Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs and expert on the social implications of communications technology: “Is being over 50 years old strong enough affinity? I’m not so sure.”

Maybe this is an idea before its time. New research published in Business Week suggests that may be the case. Among the Older Boomers (age 51-61), 8% are involved in social networking, for Seniors (62+), the figure is 6%. A huge generation gap. Yet, 61% and 70% of these same groups, respectively, are ‘on line,’ reading blogs and gathering information. Just not active in social networking. If this describes you, and you want to get your feet wet and see what the hubbub is all about, you might start with Social Networking 101.

And if you are among those entrepreneurs of a certain age who want to connect with your age group for whatever purpose, you could interpret these stats as an opportunity disguised as a problem. In the words of oft-quoted management guru, Peter Drucker: The best way to predict the future is to create it.