Project: The role of online social networking in successful ageing: benefitting from “who you know” at older ages
Funding: Australian Research Council
Commencing date: March 2010
Duration: 3 years
Location: Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute (ADSRI), Australian National University, Canberra
Researchers: Associate Professor Heather Booth, Demographer
Dr Robert Ackland, Economist/e-Research
Dr Tim Windsor, Social Psychologist

Social networks are fundamental to human well-being. The advent of new Web 2.0 technologies means that social networking increasingly takes place via the Internet. This project will conduct ground-breaking research into the role of online social networks in successful ageing in Australia. Data from a social network site (SNS) of a large seniors’ organisation will enable us to study how people actually use this new technology and its role in promoting successful ageing. By combining information on different people's use of the SNS with data on outcomes that are important for successful ageing (collected via surveys), the project will inform how socio-demographic characteristics and social networking contribute to a person ageing well and productively. We will also conduct a survey that will provide new and detailed information on the extent to which older Australians use SNSs and potential barriers to use. This world-first research will provide valuable insights into the role of online social networks in promoting successful ageing.

The project will increase understanding of how online social networking contributes to successful ageing through five outcomes: partnering, economic and voluntary activity, family and social connectedness. The findings will inform policy recommendations, social interventions and education programs designed to enhance ‘ageing well, ageing productively’. The research is pioneering in several ways including the focus on online social networking in relation to successful ageing (with contextualisation through a control study) and the joint collection and analysis of attribute, online networking and outcome data.

PhD Scholarships - Australian Postgraduate Award Industry (APAI)

There are two APAI awards for doctoral research. One will focus on Social Network Analysis and e-Research methods (contact: The other will focus on substantive issues in social networking in relation to ageing and demography, according to the successful candidate’s interests (contact: Each award is for $26140 per annum for three years, and relocation expenses up to $6000 are included.

Costs of tuition for domestic students (Australian Citizens/Permanent Residents, New Zealand Citizens) are covered by the Australian Government. However, other students will need to pay their own tuition fees (these are not covered by the APAI) which are presently $21408 per annum.

Application forms and other relevant information about study at ADSRI can be downloaded from Please do not hesitate to contact Heather Booth if you have further questions. Students with their own doctoral funding are also invited to discuss participation in the project.

How to apply:

  1. Get in touch by email with Heather Booth or Rob Ackland to discuss research ideas in relation to the project.
  2. Fill in the Pre-Application Assessment form, and submit it with a copy to Heather Booth. You will be advised whether to submit a full application.
  3. If advised, submit a full application as soon as possible.