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After an initial burst of enthusiasm, I became only a sporadic visitor to this site. Part of the reason is that most of the questions seem (from my totally unscientific survey) to be from very young to youngish people -- teens, 20s, 30s. I am sure their problems are serious and important, and vital to the site, but I can't get interested in messy roommate problems, for example.

There seem to be only a small minority of questions from middle aged, older and old people. Where are the questions such as the following (made up):

How do I tell my 50 year old sister that her hairdo, unchanged since college, now makes her look much older than her years?

My daughter-in-law keeps yakking about how I should get grab bars in the bathroom. My hobby is bouldering, at which I am very adept. How do I get her to shut the f up without actually saying that?

I am in de-acquisition mode and am sending many valuable items to auction to fund my passion for wildlife conservation. My children and grandchildren are horrified that "their heritage is being dispersed". I have all my marbles -- actually, more than they do. How do I cut off all discussion of how I dispose of my property?

As I say, I made these up, but these or similar concerns must plague many older people. Where are they? Have I totally missed their questions? It is too simple to say older people aren't familiar with the Internet. There are many people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond on English Language and Usage, for example. Or have older people bifurcated into those who effectively resist and those who abjectly acquiesce? I don't think so.

Is there any way to attract older people to this site?

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    The demographics of Stack Overflow - as shown in the results of the 2018 Developer Survey - are skewed sharply towards the younger end of the spectrum, with ~75% of the respondents being under 35 years old. 7% of respondents were 45 or older. In general, since so much of our traffic comes from Stack Overflow, as goes SO, so goes the rest of the network. I would assume that our demographics aren't significantly different. In the absence of additional data, your observations make sense.
    – HDE 226868
    May 23 '18 at 22:24
  • 2
    This is especially true for IPS because we don't have as much of an established community, like ELU does. Much of our traffic comes from the Hot Network Questions list and other sites. If our community continues to grow and develop, it's possible we'll see organic demographic growth in the higher age brackets.
    – HDE 226868
    May 23 '18 at 22:25
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    Do we have any information on how well questions from a distinctively older perspective are received? "Bad" reception would imply that this issue needs more attention and "Good" reception would imply that we should focus purely on the numbers, and that more questions from this perspective would be beneficial to the site.
    – Jesse
    May 24 '18 at 1:18
  • It's been close to two decades since I've had to deal with messy roommates, but I find those questions interesting because A) it reminds me of some fun times in my life, and B) I have relevant experience that I can share on the topic.
    – Beofett
    May 24 '18 at 16:33
  • @HDE 226868: Your comments would make a great answer!
    – user6109
    Jun 6 '18 at 9:00
9

Is there any way to attract older people to this site?

Create content for them.

In the American film industry there's this big discussion about who should be marketed to and, largely, the development and marketing dollars get spent on 18-40 year old white males. There's some really interesting data in this 2014 PDF about theater market statistics from the MPAA.

The document shows that a large percentage of the moviegoing audience is in this age range than the total population. That is to say, it shows that 31% of the total population of the US and Canada is ages 18-39 but 36% of the moviegoers and 33% of the ticket sales go to people of those ages.

For people in the age groups above that, they're either evenly represented by the population or less so. So, 40-49 year olds make up 13% of the population as well as the audience/ticket buyers; 50-59 year olds make up 14% of the population but only 12% of the audience; and 60+ people are 21% and only represent 13% of the audiences.

A lot of people attribute that to there simply being not much out there that these audiences want to see or that address the issues they're dealing with in their lives. They largely have the disposable income and, for the retired, they certainly have the time. Sure, some of them may want to see the latest Marvel film but in general people like seeing themselves represented in the media they consume. No one in Marvel is in their 50s and 60s or older (excepting Stan Lee, of course).


So, how does that apply here? It's pretty much the same thing. You've said it yourself:

After an initial burst of enthusiasm, I became only a sporadic visitor to this site. Part of the reason is that most of the questions seem (from my totally unscientific survey) to be from very young to youngish people -- teens, 20s, 30s. I am sure their problems are serious and important, and vital to the site, but I can't get interested in messy roommate problems, for example.

You're not alone in feeling that way, I'm sure. We can't really make older people ask questions here but we can encourage them (you) to do your best to add to the ecosystem, stretch the age range we attract, by asking questions that relate to your needs as an older adult.

Having questions - particularly well-answered ones - will draw audiences from Google Search results when others search for answers to similar issues. It takes time but it's probably the only way to expand the demographics we have here. So, as I'm fond of saying... be part of the change you want to see. If you want to see more content geared towards older adults, create it. When you have questions, ask. Be sure to note your age range and explain why you think it's an important part of your question.

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    Done. I've just posted a question about how to deal with the quintessential elderly nightmare.
    – user1760
    May 24 '18 at 0:40
  • So... I've sort of ignored the "is it a problem?" part of the question because I don't know that it really matters. The OP feels underrepresented already and it's affecting their use of the site... which means, to some extent, it is a problem. I think focusing on the solution, whether it's a problem or not, is a more valuable use of time. :D
    – Catija StaffMod
    May 24 '18 at 3:30
  • How can "moviegoers" and "ticket sales" be different? Do they include people who sneak into theaters as "goers" but not "ticket buyers"? May 30 '18 at 17:05
  • @AzorAhai Have you ever bought a ticket for a friend/coworker/family member? The people actually paying for the tickets are different than the people who use them sometimes.
    – Catija StaffMod
    May 30 '18 at 17:07
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One of the things I like about this SE is that, in a subtle way, it provides a channel for older people to pass on the benefit of stuff they have learned from experience to a younger audience. You mention shared houses, so I'll take that as an example: I don't live in one now but I've lived in lots of them in my life and can look back on those experienced more objectively now from the dizzying heights of my mid-50s.

The angst of teen years and early twenties is gone. I've survived the in-house-thief, the party-animal, the laundry-resistor and the person who went for early morning walks every day leaving the front door wide open. I've come to terms with the fact that I'm not an extrovert and I'm improved my tolerance of people who don't bother to put their brains in gear or wipe the counters down.

All of that equips me to offer effective answers to people who are still in that maelstrom. I can be much more objective than them and have the experience to know that venting and passive-aggressive actions rarely solve co-living issues, that finding a livable-with solution is more important than winning.

And from that I get some satisfaction that I might be able to help some other people have a slightly more harmonious shared living experience.

So, I don't agree that the site 'suffers' from a lack of older people, so much that we tend to fulfil the classic role of 'elders' in society by passing on our accumulated 'wisdom' to the younger users. (and yes I know how cringey that can sound).

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Just a guess, but I'd suspect that the older users that we do have tend to lean towards answering rather than asking. Probably just a byproduct of the experience that comes with age...

What can we do to attract and retain older users? Well, ask questions that are more targeted to and for that crowd.

Just from my observations, observing other under-served groups on the site, once people see their group represented, once they see questions on a related topic they were hesitant to ask about, the floodgates start to open. As you've already noticed with your own experience, if you only see questions geared towards younger users, you'll be likely to be under the impression that that's all we do here. You can change that impression.

If you want to see more questions from and for an older crowd, start asking and answering them on a fairly regular basis. Chances are pretty good that other folks will see them and start to ask their own.

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Older people have been/are being driven away by this site's policies and the fact that these policies are very proactively enforced.

Consider your three made up possible questions, which in your mind are the kind of questions you would ask and by extension other older people as well: Two are different scenarios of "How do I get someone to STFU about something that is none of their business?" and the third is an example of "How do I tell someone something that will offend them?" And I agree that many older people might very well ask these kinds of questions more than roommate questions.

The "How can I tell someone to STFU?" questions are poorly received here and you will with high probability get answers that you will not consider helpful: Instructions on how you should be a better person and work harder to understand the other person's POV and be nice and spend a lot of time talking etc.

You may get better results with the other question but it's not a sure thing.

And many comments and answers supporting your request will be deleted/downvoted/denigrated by people who will tell you that this is a site for "interpersonal skills" which by their own definition means "talking" (including listening) solutions exclusively.

(Preparing myself for the inevitable downvotes...but IDC cause it's meta...)

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    The reception of the OP's question doesn't seem to support your analysis.
    – Catija StaffMod
    May 24 '18 at 12:02
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    Maybe this will help you? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpersonal_communication
    – Clay07g
    May 24 '18 at 12:07
  • Ah, the classic "[insert random demographic] are being driven away because this community has rules and enforces them!"
    – Beofett
    May 24 '18 at 16:31
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    Maybe it is classic because it happens enough to be a recognizable pattern?
    – davidbak
    May 24 '18 at 16:39
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    Yes, the recognizable pattern is that the same arguments are made over just about any rules or enforcement; just the fact that rules are enforced is enough to elicit complaints that people are "being driven away", while ignoring the people who leave over issues the rules are intended to avoid.
    – Beofett
    May 24 '18 at 17:33

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