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Senior Citizens and Internet

Fastest Growing Internet Users are Ages 70 to 75 as Online Demographics Get Older

Forty-five percent of these senior citizens are now online, most with broadband capability

Feb. 6, 2009 – The charge to the Internet for senior citizens is being led by those in the 70-75 year-old age group, according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, that says this age group has increased internet use more than any other since 2005.

While just over one-fourth (26%) of 70-75 year olds were online in 2005, 45% of that age group is currently online.


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The web continues to be populated largely by younger generations, as more than half of the adult internet population is between 18 and 44 years old., But larger percentages of older generations are online now than in the past and they are doing more activities online, according to the analysis based on surveys taken from 2006-2008.


Instant messaging, social networking, and blogging have gained ground as communications tools, according to Pew, but email remains the most popular online activity, particularly among older internet users.

Fully 74% of internet users age 64 and older send and receive email, making email the most popular online activity for this age group. At the same time, email has lost some ground among teens; whereas 89% of teens said they used email in 2004, just 73% currently say they do. Some teens might point out that this is proof that email is for old people, according to Pew

Following are the age groups used by Pew with the included ages inside the brackets: Gen Y (18-32), Gen X (33-44), Younger Boomers (45-54), Older Boomers (55-63), Silent Generation (64-72) and the G.I. Generation (73+). Following are more of the highlights from the report.

Video downloads, travel reservations and work-related research now pursued more equally by young and old

“A few online activities previously dominated by either older generations or younger generations are now being done more equally across all generations under 73 years old.

“One such activity is downloading videos, an activity that in 2005 was significantly more popular with teens and Generation Y than with any other generation. Generation X is catching up, as 31% of that generation claim to download videos as of 2007, compared with 38% of Generation Y.

“Generations on the oldest end of the spectrum also became significantly more likely than they had been two years before to download videos. Some 13% of G.I. Generation internet users (age 73+) reported downloading videos, up from 1% in 2005, and another 13% of the online Silent Generation (ages 64-72) say they download videos, up from 8% in 2005.

“Perhaps less surprisingly, Generation Y is also gaining significant ground in some activities previously dominated by Generation X and older. In addition to becoming more likely to do banking online, Generation Y has also grown more likely to make travel reservations online. In 2005, half (50%) of Generation Y internet users had booked travel arrangements online and in 2008 that number rose to 65%. During the same period, the percentages of Generation X and older generations to make online travel reservations remained about the same.

“The workplace online network is expanding to include more Generation Y users. Internet users 18-32 are going online more than ever to do research for their jobs. In 2007, 51% said they used the internet for their jobs other than for email, compared with 44% of the same group in 2005.

Older generations use the internet as a tool for research, shopping and banking

“Compared with teens and Generation Y, older generations use the internet less for socializing and entertainment and more as a tool for information searches, emailing, and buying products. In particular, older internet users are significantly more likely than younger generations to look online for health information. Health questions drive internet users age 73 and older to the internet just as frequently as they drive Generation Y users, outpacing teens by a significant margin. Researching health information is the third most popular online activity with the most senior age group, after email and online search.

Broadband access tripled in oldest groups

“Since 2005, broadband access has increased dramatically in the United States across all age groups, but older groups are still largely unconnected to high-speed internet. For Americans ages 12-24, broadband access has increased by about half; for 25-64 year olds, it has about doubled; and for seniors 65 and older, broadband access has more than tripled. The percentage of the oldest age group to have broadband at home is still very low, however, at just 16%.

”Always-on, high-speed connections make it more convenient for internet users to participate in online activities, and broadband users are significantly more likely than dial-up users to do almost all major online activities.6 When looking at internet users who go online from home in 2008, broadband is more equally accessed by all age groups; 70% of home internet users older than 75 years old have high-speed access.

“As broadband access continues to increase for all age groups, perhaps we will see increased internet activity, particularly among the trailing older generations.

Source: “Generations Online in 2009,” by Sydney Jones, Research Assistant and Susannah Fox, Associate Director, Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 28, 2009

>> Read the full report


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