Seniors are using the Internet more than ever
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Seniors are using the Internet more than ever

Washington : DC : USA | Jun 16, 2012 at 1:10 PM PDT
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Plugged In: Boomers Online in 2012

According to a Pew Survey in April, Americans age 65 and over make use of the internet or email. In the past it was speculated that this group was less likely to use the internet; however, the latest data reports that over half of seniors in this demographic are online in some way.

Why are elders using the Internet?

Every since the birth of the Internet, consumers have realized that the Internet is convenient resource for health information and as a tool for managing care. Studies continue to show that looking for health information is one of the most popular uses for online activity for adults. And there are many other reasons seniors find the Internet a useful tool in their daily lives.

As of February 2012, one third (34%) of Internet users age 65 and older use social networking sites such as Facebook, and 18 percent do so on a typical day. By comparison, email use continues to be the bedrock of online communications for seniors. As of August 2011, 86% of internet users age 65 and older use email, with 48% doing so on a typical day.

Looking at gadget ownership, we find that a growing share of seniors own a cell phone. Some 69% of adults ages 65 and older report that they have a mobile phone, up from 57% in May 2010. Even among those currently age 76 and older, 56% report owning a cell phone of some kind, up from 47% of this generation in 2010.

In a Kaiser Health survey they found internet use for those 50-65 and 65-and over to also be significant.

Age 50-65 (first % number) Age 65 and over (second % number)

Ever used computer 76% 42%

Ever gone online 70% 31%

Own a computer 73% 41%

Internet Access 64% 33%

Among those who have ever gone online, percent

Go online every day 51% 46%

Online 1-5 time/wk 36% 39%

Online 1-2/month 8% 8%

Less than once/mo 5% 7%

Online from home 68% 84%

Online from work 25% 8%

Cyber Seniors started making a documentary on internet use by seniors in October 2011. The Cyber Seniors documentary is an instructional film about Internet use. Already, many seniors go from not knowing how to turn on a computer to being independent in a daily online routine. Many of them cite keeping in touch with family as the main reason for wanting to learn how to use the Internet, and have found email, Skype and Facebook to be the most beneficial for their needs. After seeing this group of seniors embrace the Internet, they began to wonder about the other seniors out there and what their relationship is to the Web. While browsing some statistics on Statistics Canada’s website, they found some interesting results.

They discovered that 15-24 year olds contribute more than any other age group to Web content. 33% contribute to online web content compared to 22% of 25-45 year olds, 11% of 45-65 year olds and only 7% of seniors (65+). Contributing to web content means blogging, posting videos and photos, sharing, commenting on articles, participating in forum discussions, etc. These are the types of activities that make things go viral, giving this age group a huge upper hand in a lot of what we see online.

Seniors and young adult age groups have many similarities: they don’t (usually) work full time, they don’t support a family, they are not raising children. In short, their responsibilities are relatively few. Why shouldn’t they be spending the same amount of time online, doing the same types of activities? Almost every teenager has a YouTube account where they create, post and share videos. No matter who they are or what background they have, this age group feels they have the right to create and express themselves in a public forum.

Cyber Seniors Project is attempting to show seniors how to use the Internet as effectively as young adults, so with projects like this one the percentages for older adults will continue to rise as they become comfortable with the Internet, and it proves to increase their quality of life.

Resources

http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/e-Health-and-the-Elderly-How-Seniors-Use-the-internet-for-Health-Information-Key-Findings-From-a-National-Survey-of-Older-Americans-Survey-Report.pdf

http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Older-adults-and-internet-use.aspx

http://www.cyberseniorsdocumentary.com/teaching-seniors-to-use-the-internet-like-teenagers.html

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More seniors than ever are using the internet for searches on health issues, keeping in touch with family, email, skype and facebook.
Dava Castillo is based in Clearlake, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor for Allvoices.
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