November 14, 2002

Baby Boomers and the Internet

At a reporter’s request, we took a special look at those ages 38-56 and compared them to those ages 18-29 and those 65 and older. The easiest comparison is the one between online Boomers and online Seniors. Online Boomers are more likely to have done almost everything online more than online Seniors and Boomers are more likely to log on daily, more likely to spend more time online and more likely to cite positive results from their Internet use.

One other major point about Boomers and Seniors is that as Baby Boomers age, they will replace the older Americans who are most resistant to going online. Thus, eventually, the most persistent and intractable “digital divide” that we see now (the one related to generational differences in use of the Internet) will diminish.

Below, all the comparisons we cite compare Boomers those age 18-29 (let’s call them GenX). For starters, Boomers are less likely to be wired than GenXers: 64% of Boomers are online vs. 78% of GenX. But Boomers who are online are just as likely as wired GenXers to use the Internet from home and work.

The pattern of the different generational activities online is a familiar one: People do things online that match their passions and needs offline. To the extent there are natural generational differences in interest and need, those differences show up online. Boomers are more interested than GenXers in getting information and services related to such things as health, wealth, religion, and government.

Things that Boomers with Internet access are more likely to do than wired GenXers:

  • Online Boomers are more likely than online GenXers to use email on any given day: 54% of wired Boomers send/receive email on any given day vs. 49% of wired GenX.
  • Online Boomers are more likely to get health info online: 66% of wired Boomers have done that vs. 54% of wired GenX.
  • Online Boomers are more likely to use Web sites that provide information or support for people interested in a specific medical condition or personal situations (our support group question): 55% vs. 36% of wired GenX.
  • Online Boomers are more likely to get financial information: 50% of wired Boomers have done that vs. 28% of wired GenX.
  • Online Boomers are more likely to trade stocks/bonds online: 15% of wired Boomers have done that vs. 9% of wired GenX.
  • Online Boomers are more likely to have gotten religious and spiritual info online: 31% vs. 24% of GenX.
  • Online Boomers are more likely to use government Web sites: 62% vs. 49% of GenX.

    Things that Boomers with Internet access are less likely to do than wired GenXers:

  • Sports searches: 51% of wired GenX have done that vs. 41% of online Boomers.
  • Job searches: 64% of wired GenX have done that vs. 34% of online Boomers.
  • Housing searches: 48% of wired GenX have done that vs. 26% of wired Boomers.
  • Creating content for the Web by keeping online diaries or posting comments to Web sites or creating Web pages: 27% of wired GenX have done this vs. 16% of online Boomers.
  • Genealogy searches: 24% of wired GenX have done that vs. 19% of online Boomers.

    Boomers with Internet access are just as likely as GenXers with Internet access to do the following things online:

  • Get news
  • Buy products
  • Participate in online auctions
  • Do job-related research
  • Do quick-info searches
  • Belong to an online group
  • Do quick searches about “someone you know or might meet”
  • Get political information
  • Check the weather
  • Do online banking
  • Make online donations