The Social Networks and Ageing Project examines the role of social networks in the successful ageing of older Australians. The project began in March 2010 and is funded for three years.
The aims of this research are to understand the role of social networks in successful ageing. The study is concerned with patterns of social networking behaviour and their influence on five outcome measures of successful ageing:
- Partnering or repartnering
- Informal economic activity
- Voluntary activity
- Perceived social connectedness
- Perceived family connectedness
These five measures are known to contribute to physical and mental wellbeing in older people, but little is known about the mechanisms involved. This study focuses on patterns of social engagement in order to understand their influence on the above successful ageing outcomes as well as on health and mental health outcomes.
Data are collected using two distinct approaches.
1. Survey: Social Activity and Wellbeing of Older Australians
A sample survey of National Seniors Australia members collects data on the social activity and wellbeing of older Australians. The data collected include the five outcome measures as well as some mental health measures, and distinguish between social activity with family members and friends, and between face-to-face and other types of communication. The survey also addresses the use of the Internet and online social networking sites for social communication.
The questionnaire was administered in hardcopy and electronic format in December 2010. The expected sample size is between 500 and 1000 participants for each format. A follow-up survey is planned for 2012.
2. Social Network Analysis of Online Social Networking
Social Network Analysis of Online Social Networking is a study of users of two online social networking websites examines networking behaviour in relation to socio-economic characteristics and the five outcome measures of successful ageing. The two study populations are:
- users of the National Seniors Australia online social networking website, which is planned specifically for research purposes and restricted to NSA members
- users of Greypath, an online social networking website based in Australia with worldwide patronage.
The study utilises specialised e-Research software (VOSON) to collect online social networking digital trace data, which are used to identify networking patterns. Users provide socio-demographic data at registration; and outcome data are collected via online surveys of users.