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Pew study shows divisions, disparities among senior Internet use

April 28, 2014
by Richard R. Rogoski
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With an increasing amount of information and services for senior citizens being put online, the ability to connect to and navigate around the Internet is becoming more important. But not all seniors are able or willing to make the leap onto the Web.

According to the results of a new study recently released by the Pew Research Center, older adults fall into two two distinct Internet user groups: "The first group (which leans toward younger, more highly educated or more affluent seniors) has relatively substantial technology assets, and also has a positive view toward the benefits of online platforms. The other (which tends to be older and less affluent, often with significant challenges with health or disability) is largely disconnected from the world of digital tools and services, both physically and psychologically."

Interestingly, researchers found that the number of seniors aged 65 years or more who now use the Internet has risen by six percentage points since April 2012 and that almost half (47 percent) of today's users use a high-speed broadband connection. Still, 41 percent of those surveyed do not use the Internet, 23 percent do not use a cell phone of any kind, and only 18 percent have a smartphone.

Internet use and broadband adoption both fall off starting at approximately age 75, the study shows.

When looking at the role household income and education plays, the researchers found: "Among seniors with an annual household income of $75,000 or more, 90 percent go online and 82 percent have broadband at home. For seniors earning less than $30,000 annually, 39 percent go online and 25 percent have broadband at home."

"Fully 87 percent of seniors with a college degree go online, and 76% are broadband adopters. Among seniors who have not attended college, 40 percent go online and just 27 percent have broadband at home."

And even though many seniors are challenged by the technology, those who go online stay online. According to the study, 71 percent of those surveyed go online every day or almost every day and an additional 11 percent go online three to five times per week.

Seniors also are beginning to embrace social networking sites, according to the study. "Today 46 percent of online seniors (representing 27 percent of the total older adult population) use social networking sites such as Facebook, and these social network adopters have more persistent social connections with the people they care about."

Related article: Survey shows how coupled seniors use technology