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Why Are Senior Citizens Susceptible to Fake News?

When it comes to disinformation, there is no demographic more vulnerable than the elderly. A 2019 study conducted by Princeton found that “users over 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains” than their younger counterparts. The study showed that the findings were correlated solely through age. Contrary to popular opinion, it was not skewed to political bias: there are equal opportunity offenders on both sides of the political spectrum!

With this understanding, it can lead many caregivers and home health aides to wonder: why are our elderly loved ones so susceptible to fake news?

Elderly individuals are more influenced by confirmation bias. 

This high prevalence of fake news sharing could be due to an enhanced reliance on confirmation bias. This is a process by which we gravitate towards facts that are more aligned with our world view. Even when we are shown evidence that disputes our beliefs, confirmation bias can make us dig our heels in and simply ‘believe harder’.

A 2019 study featured in the National Library of Medicine found that, as seniors age, they are more reliant on confirmation bias. Thus, they are more likely to gravitate towards those news items that confirm their beliefs, regardless of the validity of the source.

Seniors are less likely to have digital literacy.

Another indicator of spreading fake news is a lack of digital literacy. This is the ability to communicate information that comes from the digital sphere. Digital literacy is thusly the ability to communicate information through social media, messaging services, and other online spaces.

As individuals who did not grow up with this technology, seniors tend to miss the signs that a source isn’t reputable. A website riddled with typos, unfounded claims, and doctored photos is often an indicator of fake news. Yet, if the senior is not aware to check for those cues, they are more likely to share and spread the disinformation.

How can we help seniors spot fake news?

With such a high prevalence, it becomes the goal of every caregiver, family member, and home health aide to help their elderly individual with spotting fake news. This is not an easy task, as the combination of confirmation bias and digital literacy can create a challenging learning curve. Yet, it is possible!

Talk to your loved one about digital literacy, help them navigate the internet and spot those fishy websites, and enlist the help of a home health aide from Expicare Nursing to aid your seniors technological journey!