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Seniors and the Internet – it’s All About to Change

May 4, 2004

Seniors and the Internet – it’s All About to Change
While it may be true that today’s seniors (ages 65 or older) aren’t as wired as the rest of the world, that truth is changing. As they have with almost every other aspect of life, the massive Baby Boomer generation will change the way "seniors" view the Internet. Here are some interesting statistics as reported in the April 16, 2004 issue of Research Alert.

Currently, just 22 percent of seniors (those over age 65) have online access. While that is up dramatically from the 15 percent who were online in 2000 and the 2 percent in 1996, the way they use it is what we need to review. According to Research Alert, just 29 percent of people 65-plus use a computer more than just occasionally. They weren’t integrated to computer usage when they were in the workforce, they rarely open spam and, because of their discomfort with purchasing, they are more likely to only use the Internet to research. In short, they use the medium but are relatively impervious to the marketing uses of the Internet and are very skeptical of the safety of online purchases.

These are the statistics that currently are used to make the argument that one needs information but not necessarily product online. And, for now, that may be true. However, as the Boomers enter this "senior" category, that may not be the case. Additionally, the older Baby Boomers those age 50-58 and nearing retirement age are more like Generation X users (age 28-39) in their online habits. They use the computer for their news, for research and for shopping! Additionally, 76 percent of them use a computer on a regular basis from their workplace, so their comfort level is that of their younger cohorts. The lesson from this is, as Baby Boomers become the seniors of tomorrow, the way they view the world and most certainly the world in technology and the Internet, will be vastly different from the way current seniors have. While they may want similar things (only packaged a different way), the way they will find out about products and want to buy them, by all indications, will mirror the 20- and 30-somethings of today — not the 65-plus. Companies who are prepared for the Online buyers of tomorrow will have a better opportunity to capture this huge Boomer market and will be ahead of the pack.

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