1. Why are Baby Boomers in particular down on social connectedness indicators?
This is arguably one of the most intriguing findings that came out of the inaugural Sightlines report. There are many possible explanations, all of which we are currently exploring through reviews of existing studies and development of new studies. One popular thought is that the measure of social connectedness did not reference any type of social media. We are designing a survey and reviewing previous research on how Boomers connect with others and the benefits of in person versus virtual interactions. Another possibility is that Boomers today are the preeminent sandwich generation –they are often caring for parents in very old age and young adult children who have opted to move back home (note: the index primarily taps social interaction outside of the home).
2. What role might technology play (e.g., texting, video chat, etc.) in social connectedness and other Sightlines outcomes?
Given our position here in the Silicon Valley, the Sightlines team is particularly interested in exploring this question in depth. To do so, we are beginning to collaborate with various faculty and industry leaders to determine how best to study the role of technology in enhancing social engagement, financial security, and healthy living. In Spring 2016, the SCL organized a conference on wearable technology to measure healthy living. Currently, we are developing a social media launch conference bringing together academic experts and social media companies to better understand and leverage the use of social media platforms in enhancing connectedness. Recently, we published a paper examining the role of information and communication technology in well-being among 80+ year olds, a relatively understudied population despite dramatic increases in Americans’ life expectancy.
3. What about Americans younger than 25? What can they do to better prepare for old age than their predecessors?
Now being labeled GenZ, the up and coming young generation is best positioned to enhance longevity and well-being across the life span. A future aim of the Sightlines project is to focus in on either end of the life span to better understand the oldest adults from whom we can learn the most about longer lives and engaging with youngest adults for whom we can create the most lasting positive change.
4. How did you come up with the Sightlines domains of Healthy Living, Financial Security, and Social Engagement?
Over 2014 and 2015, we convened experts in aging and well-being to ascertain which factors best predicted longer, better lives. We narrowed these down to specific actionable items –those that individuals and societies can reasonably do something about. Serendipitously, these items fell into three domains that aligned near perfectly with the three divisions of the Stanford Center on Longevity, which houses the Sightlines project. To learn more about the beginnings of the project, read the inaugural report or visit our Methods page.