As of April 2012, 53% of American adults ages 65 and older use the internet or email. Though these adults are still less likely than all other age groups to use the internet, the latest data represent the first time that half of seniors are going online. After several years of very little growth among this group, these gains are significant. In August of 2008, 38% of adults ages 65 and older were online; by August of 2011, the share of seniors using the internet or email at least occasionally had barely inched up to 41%. However, by February of this year the number of online seniors had bumped up to 48%. In the latest survey, 53% said they used the internet or email.
Among the next oldest age group that we commonly examine, adults ages 50-64, almost eight in ten (77%) use the internet, a proportion that has remained relatively steady over the past three years.
Overall, 82% of all American adults ages 18 and older say they use the internet or email at least occasionally, and 67% do so on a typical day.
Once online, internet use becomes a regular part of seniors’ lives.
Although half of adults ages 65 and older remain disconnected from the internet, once online, internet use becomes a fixture in everyday life for seniors. Overall, 82% of all adult internet users go online on an average day. Among adults age 65 and older, 70% use the internet on a typical day. That compares to:
- 76% of the internet users ages 50-64 who go online on a typical day,
- 86% of the internet users ages 30-49 who go online on a typical day
- 87% of the internet users ages 18-29 who go online on a typical day.
These findings largely echo other recent research examining older adults’ use of technology. Once they are given the tools and training needed to start using the internet, they become fervent users of the technology.
It is also now the case that once seniors start using the internet, they most often have access to high-speed connections at home. Among all adults ages 65 and older, 39% say they have a broadband connection at home, up from just 8% in 2005.
After age 75, internet and broadband use drops off significantly.
Looking more closely at the “G.I. generation” (those who are currently ages 76 and older) reveals a starkly different reality. Internet adoption among this group has only reached 34% as of April 2012, and home broadband use has inched up to 21%.
Few among this oldest segment of the population are likely to start using the internet without some assistance and encouragement. In 2010, when non-users from the G.I. Generation population were asked if they felt they knew enough about computers and technology to start using the internet and email on their own, 68% said they did not feel confident enough and would need someone to help them get online. Perceived relevancy is also a major issue for this group, as 38% of non-users in the G.I. Generation population say that the main reason they don’t use the internet or email is that they’re “just not interested.” Only 4% of non-internet users in the G.I. Generation population said they would like to start using the internet and email in the future.