Number of seniors surfing the net surging
Since holding classes for seniors on how to use Facebook at the Dublin Recreation Center, I’ve been interested in the demographics of seniors using the web. So, I did a little research and think the results might be interesting to you too.
Let’s start at the top. First, I am using the word seniors to mean aged 65 and older. I know there are lots of other ways to characterize this aged group, but it’s the word I grew up with. Second, I wanted to know how many seniors are in the world today. According to transgenerational.org, there are 35 million people over the age of 65 today. They report we are about to see an explosion and dramatic growth in the numbers of people in this age group. Today, the 65 and older account for 7.6% of the world’s population and by 2040 this group is projected to double to 14% of the world’s population. It’s pretty hard to ignore that kind of growth.
So, the next question in my mind is what would happen if all those seniors started to use the web? One thing is for certain, we would need to provide better and more education since many of them have not really known the internet to be part of their jobs and even daily life. But let’s not get too far ahead without first understanding if seniors are using the web now.
According to a 2009 Nielsen.com survey, the number of senior citizens surfing the World Wide Web is on the rise. That same study says, more than 6 million people 65 years of age and older said they were active on the Internet than were five years before the study. Here is the breakdown:
- 11.3 million seniors reported using the Internet (November 2004 survey)
- 17.5 million seniors reported surfing the Internet (November 2009 survey)
What are seniors doing online?
So, the research says the demographic of seniors is growing and since the internet has really only been popular since the 1990s, many haven not really gotten a proper introduction. It would make sense then that senior adoption would include basic internet tasks. According to the 2009 study, reading personal e-mail was what seniors did online most often. Among other things, they viewed or printed maps, checked weather, paid bills, viewed or posted photos, read general or political news.
The opportunity to enhance senior lives using the internet seems pretty vast to me. While I was teaching the senior Facebook class, I veered off course and showed the group how to use readers, like google reader, to have a personal reading experience with news they want, when they want. It was a huge hit with the class. We also looked at Skype as a way of communicating with others and staying connected across distances. They had a greater interest in this topic than we had time.
From a social perspective, I believe there is a great opportunity to impact seniors’ social lives. Watching people in my own family become impacted by illness due to physically aging and even the death of loved ones seems to leave a window for isolation to creep in. Perhaps today’s tech-savvy world can adapt to seniors and look for opportunities to serve up solutions keeping them connected to family and friends while offering a support system that speaks to their lifestyle.