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July 29, 2014

Internet Use Among Seniors

Author: Valerie Baker

This post has been updated for 2016. 

It’s now been many years since my grandfather died. He suffered from pancreatic cancer, and it finally won. He had already beat colon cancer, but unfortunately this one did him in. That last year, I’d spend almost every night with him – talking about history, life, and business.

One of the most interesting things I saw during this period was his resolve – he never let it get to him – always remaining positive and upbeat and he did massive amounts of research about his condition – online.

At the time I didn’t really think much about this, but later I would come to learn that there continues to be this prevailing myth that “old people don’t use the Internet.” Literally I heard that AGAIN at a meeting with one of the area’s largest companies just last week. But here, nearly a decade ago – my 78 year-old grandfather was comfortably searching and reading day and night. Since then the technology has definitely changed, no one knew what “Android” was, Twitter was non-existent, and Netflix had yet to destroy Blockbuster, but here he was searching the Internet.

When it comes to the online space – a lot can happen in 10 years.

But one misconception that continues – is Internet Use Among Senior. As my good friend Robert said in a podcast just the other day. Why is everyone hunched over their phone in parks, at coffee shops, because it’s an amazingly useful tool. Humans have been inventing and using useful tools. To think it’s usefulness ends at a certain age is downright disrespectful.

We have many clients who continue to assert, that because of their age “my audience just isn’t online.” Well I call bullocks. If the use of the Internet by this older demographic was already large in 2009 – it’s been exploding. In fact, in many ways it’s one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of Internet usage and adoption (explains why I’m seeing elaborate commercials on prime time television for – a singles site for those over 50).

Seniors Are Online – And They’re Very Active

Before I get to the research we compiled, I want to assert – seniors are online. Based on the research below we see this. Elderly internet use is one of the fastest growing segments in the technology market.

And based on our own small samples for clients – we see this. I can think of 3 clients right now, whose audience is primarily those ages 50+ . These same clients who receive millions of dollars in leads and sales from their website’s every year will assert that “no, our audience still isn’t online.” But, as long as their business is growing, and we’re helping them do that, I’m happy.

Senior Citizen Internet Usage

According to PEW Reasearch, a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world:

Nearly 80% of Internet users 30 – 49 use social networking sites, and 65% of seniors 50+ use social media.

According to NN/G – which conducts groundbreaking research, evaluates user interfaces, and reports findings: 

Internet usage among those over 65 has been growing at nearly 10% per year. According to nielsen roughly 66% of people over 65 were using the internet in 2012 (up from 60% in 2011). From this it¹s estimated that currently 75%+ of seniors over 65 are currently actively using the Internet. In the united states that represents 35 million people.

EMarketer which reported on Internet vs. TV usage among both baby boomers and seniors (65+) reported:

boomers spent more time on the web than with any other media channel, including TV. And for seniors, time spent watching TV exceeded time spent online by just 30 minutes…

A late 2015 Pew Research article on general Internet use found:

….a clear majority (61%) of senior citizens use the internet.

Perhaps most interesting from our stand point and for our clients – this study concluded that both groups spend a significant amount of time shopping or research relating to shopping. This study was done over a year ago and all trends continue to point to growth in Internet usage across this demographics as well as time spent online. Meaning this is most likely larger then when this research was originally done and when this article originally reported.

What Conclusion Can You Draw?

Internet Usage Among Those Over 50 is Up – And They’re Looking for You and Your Business

Young or old – your audience is online. They’re looking for what you have to offer – so get in front of them.

Valerie Baker

Valerie is the Senior Account Manager & Project Manager here at Atilus.

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