The fine folks at the Pew Internet and American Life Project marked a notable milestone in the history of electronic communications this past spring: “53% of American adults ages 65 and older use the internet or email. Though these adults are still less likely than all other age groups to use the internet, the latest data represent the first time that half of seniors are going online.” The crossing of the 50% mark means marketers and fundraisers really need to develop strategies to reach our retirees and senior citizens online. The percentages will only increase, of course, as ever more people who used the internet for work and/or play, and then those who grew up knowing few other means of communication, move toward 65. What else does the latest Pew report show us about Boomers and the internet?
The full report can be downloaded at the Pew Internet site for free. The growth in internet use by Americans over 65 seems largely, but not uniquely, driven by use of Facebook. “As of February 2012, one third (34%) of internet users ages 65 and older use social networking sites such as Facebook, and 18% do so on a typical day. Among all adult internet users, 66% use social networking sites (including 86% of those ages 18-29), with 48% of adult internet users making use of these sites on a typical day.” Which means that seniors are not far off the pace of the national average!
Seniors, even retirees, are hardly sedentary folk these days. Gains in longevity can mean longer active lives, and a desire to share travel or family experiences via social networks. And the unfortunate fact is, the self-induced banking implosions of the last 5-6 years willthan they might have intended. All of which means older Americans have not slowed down their economic activity in ways that might have been expected a quarter century ago. Whatever their motives for going online, reaching seniors with services, goods, and philanthropic appeals can not ignore the ever-growing use of internet technologies by those seniors.
What we found particularly interesting about the report is the fact that use of e-readers and tablets have shot up in recent months. “Almost four times as many seniors own e-book readers now as did just two years ago; 11% reported owning them in the most recent survey, compared with just 3% in 2010. Tablet ownership is also growing; 8% of seniors have them, up from 1% in 2010.” Such a steep rise means content providers who want to target seniors must also format their content not just to a laptop or a smartphone, but to various tablets as well. And again, the numbers of those using such devices will only grow.
What steps has your organization taken to reach out to seniors where they are? If you’re not following these trends, they will be leaving you behind!