Technology Trivia & Facts

Graying of the Web: How Seniors Use the Internet

Seniors online ranks are growing quickly*

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM HOLDS that the Net is a playground for the young to flirt, play games and shop. Older people, we’re to believe, aren’t interested in the technology.

That simply isn’t true.

Surf the Internet: You’re Never Too Old

The over-65 demographic is one of the fastest-growing on the Web, according to an analysis for The Wall Street Journal by Nielsen/NetRatings, an online research firm. The number of seniors who logged on to the Internet from home almost doubled between March 2000 and March 2002, to about 6.8 million from 3.7 million. Seniors who make up 12% of the overall U.S. population -still aren’t proportionately represented online. But they’re gaining fast. They now make up 6.3% of the online population, up from 4.3% two years ago. Seniors spend more time online than the average population-over 13 hours a month, compared with under 12 hours for the overall population-but don’t surf as frequently. Nielsen researchers speculate that’s because older people don’t have as much access to high-speed broadband connections, so it takes them longer to do their surfing.

As for what sites seniors visit, their interests are all over the map. Among Web sites with at least 250,000 visitors, those sites with the highest percentage of senior visitors included a genealogy site, a political-gossip site, several finance-related sites and one site – marnarocks.com -that publishes humorous senior-themed greeting cards.


How Long Do Seniors Spend Online?

Active audience (in millions)

AGE 65+ ……………………………………………………………. 6.77

ALL AGES ………………………………………………………. 106.73


Percent of total online audience

AGE 65+ ……………………………………………………………. 6.34%

ALL AGES ………………………………………………………….. 100%


Average number of sessions/mo.

AGE 65+ …………………………………………………………………. 30

ALL AGES ……………………………………………………………….. 22


Average time spent during the month

AGE 65+ …………………………………………………………….. 13:14:46

ALL AGES …………………………………………………………… 11:51:11

Source: Nielsen/NetRatings


Tips About Selling to Seniors Online

More and more of the mature market is going online.

Secrets of Successfully Advertising to Seniors

Be sure your website is senior-friendly with these tips.

  • Make sure your customers can reach you. On the site, in a very prominent place, state your physical address, your email address, and your phone number. If you can have a toll-free number, all the better. On many websites, it takes a lot of poking around to find out how to reach a real person.
  • Offering free shipping is a winner for your mature customers. Often it can make the difference between the customer ordering online or going down the street to their local mall.
  • Offer a non-conditional return policy. That is, let your customers return their purchase anytime, for any reason. Explain on your website how returns are handled and how the customer is reimbursed. If you sell a physical product, include return labels the customer can use to send the item back at no cost. You can set this up with your carriers such as UPS or FedEx.
  • Respond rapidly to customer complaints. One idea to check into is the use of instant messaging.

* For lots more on seniors’ use of the internet, see: Senior Facts and Figures

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