22% of Americans 65 and older use the Internet. The percent of seniors who go online has jumped by 47% between 2000 and 2004. In a February 2004 survey, 22% of Americans age 65 or older reported having access to the Internet, up from 15% in 2000. That translates to about 8 million Americans age 65 or older who use the Internet. By contrast, 58% of Americans age 50-64, 75% of 30-49 year-olds, and 77% of 18-29 year-olds currently go online.
Notably, Women have reached parity with men in the wired senior population.
In the year 2000, about 60% of wired seniors were men and about 40% were women. In February 2004, the gender ratio among wired seniors has shifted to 50% men and 50% women – the same ratio as the general Internet population.
Wired seniors are often as enthusiastic as younger users in the major activities that define online life such as email and the use of search engines to answer a specific question. Also, wired seniors are as likely as younger users to go online on a typical day. Communication and information searches attract wired seniors. There has been sharp growth in the number doing key Internet activities such as health searches, e-shopping, and online banking. Email is equally popular among Internet users age 65 or older and their younger counterparts. Fully 94% of wired seniors have sent or received email, compared to 91% of all Internet users.
Still, most seniors live lives far removed from the Internet, know few people who use email or surf the Web, and cannot imagine why they would spend money and time learning how to use a computer. Seniors are also more likely than any other age group to be living with some kind of disability, which could hinder their capacity to get to a computer training center or read the small type on many Web sites.
There is a burgeoning group of Americans who are slightly younger than retirees and who are vastly more attached to the online world. This “silver tsunami” identified in the Pew Internet Project’s 2001 “Wired Seniors” report has gained momentum. As Internet users in their 50s get older and retire, they are unlikely to give up their wired ways and therefore will transform the wired senior stereotype.