Internet usage among seniors increasing
Many resources are available for seniors to start taking advantage of all the web has to offer.
The latest data indicates that the number of seniors (65 and older) using the internet has “increased by 55 percent, from 11.3 million active users in November of 2004 to 17.5 million in November 2009”, according to The Nielson Company. The amount of time seniors are spending online also increased 11 percent in that five-year span from approximately 52 hours per month to slightly more than 58 hours per month.
Further, an AARP study revealed that 40 percent of adults over the age of 50 consider themselves extremely or very comfortable using the internet (and 70 percent of online users say their online community, or network, is very important).
“The perception is that Americans over 50 only dabble on the internet, but we are finding that they are increasingly spending time online and becoming involved in robust internet activities, such as online communities,” said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California.
How seniors use the internet
Internet use among seniors primarily reflects that of the general public. The AARP study revealed that more and more seniors are using social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Linked-In, and Twitter. Out of 1,360 seniors polled, 27 percent stay connected through social media websites.
Of those, 31 percent use Facebook most often and 73 percent of Facebook users are connected to relatives other than children or grandchildren.
“They (seniors) are using the internet to keep up with the world and the people who are important to them,” said Jean Koppen, the AARP report’s author.
The Nielson Report revealed that viewing and sending personal email was the most popular online activity for those 65 and older, followed by: viewing and printing maps online, checking weather, paying and viewing bills, viewing and posting photos, reading general and political news, checking personal health care information, planning leisure travel trips, searching for recipes and meal planning suggestions, and reading business or finance news.
The top 5 site destinations for seniors 65 and older are :
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Benefits of internet use
For those with limited experience, attempting to grasp the internet can appear an overwhelming task. But gradually learning how to effectively navigate the web, and find sites that are important to you, can yield tremendous benefits.
Access to a wealth of knowledge:
From health resources to breaking news to how-to-guides, the internet is a robust informational tool.
Increased social opportunities:
The internet allows people worlds apart to communicate with ease through video conferencing, email, social networks, chat rooms, and discussion forums.
Improved mental health:
The Phoenix Center, a non-profit organization that studies public-policy issues, found that “spending time online reduces depression by 20 percent in senior citizens” after examining survey responses from 7,000 retired Americans over the age of 55.
“Maintaining relationships with friends and family at a time in life when mobility becomes increasingly limited is challenging for the elderly,” said Dr. Sherry G. Ford, the study’s co-author. “Increased internet access and use by senior citizens enables them to connect with sources of social support when face-to-face interaction becomes more difficult.”
Enhanced brain function:
A study conducted at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA discovered that “surfing the web for only a week stimulated areas of the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning in middle-aged and older adults with little internet experience.”
Resources for seniors
Seniors may learn how to navigate the internet and operate computers in an assortment of ways. Area colleges, universities or community centers usually offer classes, and seniors can find many step-by-step books or ask younger family members for guidance.
There are also senior classes available through the following web sites:
For other, more general senior-focused websites, the AARP offers resources by state: