INFLUENCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON FAMILIAL CARE AND SUPPORT OF OLDER PERSONS
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The world’s population is ageing and this is a critical challenge in the 21st century, affecting individuals and nations everywhere, including Nigeria. There are more elderly people around now as a result of declining fertility, improvement in public health, increase in life expectancy and changes in living arrangement among family structures. It is thus now common to see older people being cared for by their family (Wahab and Adedokun, 2012).
A report by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific ESCAP (2015) reveals that the population of older people aged 60 and above more doubled in Asia from 322 million in 2000 to about 705 million in 2015. It projected that Japan and Singapore are likely to have the highest population of aged people by 2030.
Nigeria’s increasing population in the last three decades has impacted variously on the structure of the population. The 2006 population census shows that 44 percent of the population are children under 15 years, while 3.3 percent are aged 65 years and above and about 3.7 percent of the rural population as against 2.5percent of the urban fall within this cohort of elderly people (National Population Commission, 2006). Mudiare (2013) notes that among countries in the south of the Sahara, Nigeria has the highest population of elderly people aged over 60 years. However, government is not doing enough to care for this vulnerable population.
Lack of a social security scheme in Nigeria worsens the situation of Nigeria’s aged population and this makes Gesinde, Adekeye and Iruonagbe (2011) submit that elderly people in Nigeria are faced with inadequate customary family support, social exclusion and non-existent social security.
The internet has brought about a great revolution in the world’s communication system, aiding the search for information as well as connectivity among people for social and other reasons. The social media, otherwise known as social networking sites, have particularly connected people across great distances, effectively removing geographic, economic and political barriers (Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe, 2011). On the platform of the social media, people share a myriad of things, ranging from ideas, experiences and pictures to messages and information of interest.
Social networking is now an integral part of many people’s lives, especially young people (Meyer and Bray, 2013; Kuppuswamy, and Narayan, 2010). It is well known these days that young people stay glued to their screens texting, checking e-mail, or updating their social media pages and keeping up with world events and helping to shape them. The use of social media has become ever more popular among the youth but then the elderly are also getting more enthusiastic about networking and staying connected with friends and family and sharing information and files (photos, videos, news etc.) as well as links and status updates with them (Bell, Fausset, Farmer, Nguyen, Harley and Fain, 2013).
Research on online social networks is vast but most of academic research has focused mainly on experiences of adolescents and young adults among undergraduate students or the college student population. There is currently little academic research that describes the activities of older adults on these sites (who does what and with whom) and how the social media affect familial care and support for older persons especially in Nigeria. This present research therefore focuses on critically exploring the influence of social media on familial care and support of older persons, with particular reference to Ojo Local Government Area (LGA) of Lagos State.
1.1 Statement of Problem
It has been estimated that globally, one in four older persons experience loneliness (DiTommaso, Brannen and Best, 2004). This reflects the situation in a country like Nigeria and a state like Lagos where many people are caught up in the fast pace of the city and subsequently friends and family members do not remember the elderly. Literature clearly shows the loneliness experienced by elderly people and the adverse effects that this has on their health, well-being and quality of life.
Most of the studies on the dynamics of social media, familial care and support of older persons were carried out by scholars such as Katz and Rice (2002); Murphy (2006); Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe (2011); Bell (2013) outside Nigeria and with particular focus on the developed world.In Nigeria, an underdeveloped country, most of the available studies on social media such as Oluwatoyin (2011); Ndaku (2013); Oleabhiele (2015) are academic, largely theoretical studies whose findings are subjectively based on the researchers’ personal opinions. These studies did not give adequate attention to the influence of social media on familial care and support of older persons neither did they highlight effective strategies that can stimulate familial care and support of older persons. This research will thus fill this gap by critically exploring the influence of social media on familial care and support of older persons particularly in Ojo Local Government Area (LGA) of Lagos State.
1.2 Research Questions
This study is guided by the following research questions:
Q1: What is the influence of social media on familial care of older persons living in Ojo Local Government Area (LGA)?
Q2: Will social networking have effect on the loneliness of older persons in Ojo LGA?
Q3: What is the influence of social media on support of older people in Ojo LGA?
1.3 Objectives of Study
This study will be conducted with the following objectives:
i. To examine the influence of social media on familial care of older persons living in Ojo Local Government Area (LGA).
ii. To investigate the effect of social networking on loneliness of older persons in Ojo LGA.
iii. To assess the influence of social media on support of older persons in Ojo LGA.
iv. To ascertain how the use of social media is affecting the wellbeing of older persons in Ojo LGA.