According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project,** almost 60% of Americans age 50–64 are online, and more are plugging in each passing day. Even more surprising, 22% of consumers 65 and older use the Web regularly, up from less than 2% 10 years ago.
How Seniors Use the Internet
Advanced Communications Law and Policy Institute (ACLP) at New York Law School along with the Older Americans Technology Services (OATS) released a report in 2014, Closing the Broadband Gap: How Seniors are Navigating the Digital Highways. The study relied on a national telephone survey of senior citizens age 65 and older. It explored why and how senior citizens with broadband connections use the Internet. The results showed that seniors use the internet to access the following:
- Health and medical information – 66%
- Local, state or federal websites – 58%
- Banking or financial activities – 55%
- Social networking (Facebook or LinkedIn) – 48%
- Video chat services (Skype or Facetime) – 26%
- Take a class – 18%
The Pew Center found that 79% of all American adults go online, a number that has stayed fairly constant for 10 years.** The internet adoption rates for various age groups varies significantly.
- Millennials (18-33) – 95%
- Gen X (34-45) – 86%
- Boomers (46-55) – 81%
- Boomers (56-64) – 76%
- Silent Generation (65-73) – 58%
- G.I. Generation (74+) – 30%
There is a vast array of resources out there for seniors who want to get on the information superhighway, and develop a deeper understanding of the opportunities the internet has to offer.
SeniorNet: Founded in 1986, it started as a research project funded by the Markle Foundation to determine how computers could enhance the lives of older adults. Over the last 30 years, SeniorNet has grown into one of the world’s leading technology educators of adults over 55. SeniorNet supports a large network of locally operated Learning Centers throughout the United States and internationally. Their mission is to “provide older adults education for and access to computer technologies to enhance their lives and enable them to share their knowledge and wisdom.”* SeniorNet also provides computer education to veterans, the underserved, disabled, and those with impairments.
Colleges and Universities: Many colleges and universities have free college courses for seniors through their extension programs. Others where an Aging Studies Center or Institute on Aging exists are great resources. Check with your local university or community college for course availability.
Internet: A number of websites serve as search engines for free college courses. One such site is eLearners.
Libraries: Many public libraries offer computer classes. These could be self-study classes for computer basics or organized training sessions. In many places, library members have access to free computer courses. Check with your local library for information.
AARP: The AARP website has an extensive list of computer classes offered through their organization all over the country.