Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older has nearly doubled—from 22% to 42% over the past year.
While social media use has grown dramatically across all age groups, older users have been especially enthusiastic over the past year about embracing new networking tools. Although email continues to be the primary way that older users maintain contact with friends, families and colleagues, many users now rely on social network platforms to help manage their daily communications—sharing links, photos, videos, news and status updates with a growing network of contacts.
Half (47%) of internet users ages 50-64 and one in four (26%) users age 65 and older now use social networking sites.
Half of online adults ages 50-64 and one in four wired seniors now count themselves among the Facebooking and LinkedIn masses. That’s up from just 25% of online adults ages 50-64 and 13% of those ages 65 and older who reported social networking use one year ago in a survey conducted in April 2009.
Young adult internet users ages 18-29 continue to be the heaviest users of social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, with 86% saying they use the sites. However, over the past year, their growth paled in comparison with the gains made by older users. Between April 2009 and May 2010, internet users ages 50-64 who said they use a social networking site like MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn grew 88% and those ages 65 and older grew 100% in their adoption of the sites, compared with a growth rate of 13% for those ages 18-29.
One in ten (11%) online adults ages 50-64 and one in twenty (5%) online adults ages 65 and older now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others.
The use of Twitter and other services to share status updates has also grown among older users—most notably among those ages 50-64. While just 5% of users ages 50-64 had used Twitter or another status update service in 2009, 11% now say they use these tools. On a typical day, 6% of online adults ages 50-64 make Twitter a part of their routine, up from the 1% who did so in 2009.
By comparison, social networking sites have gained a much larger foothold in the lives of older Americans over time. One in five (20%) adults ages 50-64 say they use social networking sites on a typical day, up from 10% one year ago. Likewise, 13% of online adults ages 65 and older log on to social networking sites, compared with just 4% who did so in 2009.
Email and online news are still more appealing to older users, but social media sites attract many repeat visitors.
While email may be falling out of favor with today’s teenagers, older adults still rely on it heavily as an essential tool for their daily communications. Overall, 92% of those ages 50-64 and 89% of those ages 65 and older send or read email and more than half of each group exchanges email messages on a typical day. Online news gathering also ranks highly in the daily media habits of older adults; 76% of internet users ages 50-64 get news online, and 42% do so on a typical day. Among internet users ages 65 and older, 62% look for news online and 34% do so on a typical day.
Social media properties—including networking and status update sites—are newer additions to the daily digital diet of older adults. Yet, the “stickiness” of the sites is notable. To look at the data another way, among the pool of adults ages 50 and older who use social networking sites, 44% used them on the day prior to their being contacted for our survey.
The pool of Twitter and status update users ages 50 and older is too small to segment, but the behavior of this limited early adopter group does suggest a similar tendency towards regular use of the sites.
By comparison, less than half of online banking users ages 50 and older visited the sites on a typical day and less than one in five older users of online classified sites reported use of the sites “yesterday.”