AARP seeks to pull seniors from Facebook with new social media network

The interest group is looking to focus seniors' online conversations more on shared interests instead of divisive topics

Senior-focused American interest group AARP is seeking to create a new social media community taking aim at the increased use of the Facebook platform by seniors.

The new platform, Senior Planet Community, is specifically designed for adults at or over the age of 60 and is designed around participation in specific topics and interests to avoid toxic discussions and political polarization which some believe permeates Facebook, though the company itself denies this.

The new platform has been developed by the Older Adults Technology Service (OATS), a division of AARP.

“Social media provides a platform for interaction and community building that older adults are craving, and that’s shown by the increasing number of seniors utilizing it to make deeper connections, find joy and entertainment, and learn new skills,” said Tom Kamber, executive director of OATS from AARP in a statement announcing the launch.

One reason for OATS’ and AARP’s efforts revolves around how welcome seniors may feel on predominant social media platforms, Kamber said.

“During the pandemic, a significant number of older adults reported an uptick in technology usage, yet seniors have not always felt welcomed by major social media platforms,” he explained. “Senior Planet Community offers an online environment where older adults can interact with people of a similar age group without ads on a simple yet well-designed, user-friendly platform.”

In an interview with news publication Axios, Kamber described that the initial goals of the new AARP platform are relatively modest in terms of creating an installed base of users.

“I do think eventually it would be great if we had a million people,” he said to the publication. “Right now I’d be really happy to have 100,00 people using it well.”

OATS began its own efforts to further connect seniors to technology by offering computer use literacy classes to older adults living in New York City. Since then, the division has significantly expanded its footprint within AARP’s operations as technology has become a more critical social and business tool.

Advertising opportunities on the AARP platform may not be present. According to a column appearing at technology news site Ars Technica, advertising is not a component on the platform.

“Besides its focus on the 50-plus set, Senior Planet Community stands apart from Facebook in that it’s not commercial,” the column explains. “The site has no advertising or membership fees. Unless the cost to run the site grows substantially, that probably won’t present much of a problem. AARP isn’t saying how much it has put into Senior Planet Community, but the organization is famously well-capitalized, with $2.3 billion in net assets and $1.7 billion in revenue in 2020.”

Facebook has become an important tool for many reverse mortgage loan originators looking to connect with current and potential clients. Advertising on Facebook became more difficult for the reverse mortgage industry after changes stemming from discrimination lawsuits in 2019, which included eliminating the ability of marketers to advertise based on geography, age and other demographics in housing, jobs and credit products.

In 2020, Open Mortgage announced the suspension of its ad buying on social media platforms owned by Facebook in protest of those platforms’ policies related to the proliferation of misinformation and hate speech, it said.

Read the coverage at Axios and Ars Technica.

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