Whitehall uses social networking to reach silver surfers

Whitehall uses social networking to reach silver surfers

Department for Work and Pensions seeks to encourage debate

The UK Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has launched a social networking website that it hopes will encourage debate between older people and the government.

The pilot scheme at generationxperience.wordpress.com has been developed in conjunction with the Hansard Society as part of DWP’s Generation Xperience campaign, which earlier this month staged its first UK Older People’s Day.

DWP said its representatives will regularly update the website, start new discussions or contribute to existing ones. They will also moderate the site.

The site will shortly link to other well known social networking sites including Myspace, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.

The scheme follows recent research for DWP’s Generation Xperience campaign, which revealed the popularity of the internet among older people. Over half of all over 50s have access to the internet, rising to three quarters (76 per cent) of 50-64 year olds. Nearly one in six of those in the 50-64 age bracket have conquered Instant Messaging, social networking sites and internet chatrooms (15 per cent), while emailing is becoming the norm (37 per cent). More than half (56 per cent) of respondents say they have set themselves the goal of 'learning computer skills' as they approach later life.

Pensions Minister Mike O’Brien said: "There are 20 million people over the age of 50 in the UK who have helped build a prosperous economy, a strong society and a better country. It is crucial their views must be taken into consideration.

"With this pilot scheme, we’re using a method of communication that is becoming increasingly commonplace for this age group. As many of the popular social networking sites are oriented towards young internet users, this is an effective way of talking to and listening to older people in the UK and has great potential to reduce isolation and promote digital inclusion.”