Older Internet Users Take Shine to Social Networking

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-08-29

Spurred by the promise of reconnecting with people from the past and medical issue support, use of social network Websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter by Web users ages 50 and older almost doubled from a year ago.

Pew Research said some 42 percent of 2,252 Internet users 50 and older networking fessed up to using social networking Websites compared with just 22 percent of the same demographic in April 2009.

Pew said that between April 2009 and May 2010, social networking use among Web users ages 50 to 64 grew from 25 percent to 47 percent, or 88 percent. People ages 65 and older grew from 13 percent to 26 percent.

Some 20 percent of online adults ages 50 to 64 said they use social networking sites on an average day, up from 10 percent one year ago.

Thirteen percent of adults ages 65 and older log on to social networking sites on a typical day, compared with just 4 percent who did so in 2009.

One in 10 Internet users ages 50 and older owned up to using Twitter or another status update service. Some 6 percent of online adults ages 50 to 64 make Twitter a part of their daily routine compared with 1 percent who did so in 2009.

At the other end of the spectrum, Facebook and LinkedIn use among users ages 18 to 29-the so-called Millennial Generation-grew from 76 percent to 86 percent, or only 13 percent.

Clearly, social Websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are slower to catch on among the more senior generations of Internet users.

Mary Madden, a Pew senior research specialist and author of the report, noted that despite the uptick in social network use among more senior users, most still use e-mail to connect with friends, families and colleagues.

Perhaps a more salient question would be how many of these more senior users did not use the Internet until social networks sites such as Facebook and Twitter became prominent.

Have Facebook and Twitter drawn more people to use the Web who wouldn't have before because they didn't find e-mail useful or important enough?

Pew didn't ask that question, but it did determine that social media use is more prevalent among older users who have high-speed broadband connections in their homes. More than half of broadband users ages 50 to 64 use social networking sites.

What is drawing older Internet users to the Web? It's not Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga.

Madden said social networking users are much more likely to reconnect with people from their past, and these "renewed connections can provide a powerful support network when people near retirement or embark on a new career."

Also, older adults suffering from a chronic disease are reaching out for support online.

Readers can download the full Pew report here

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