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Nearly 40% of Germany's Seniors Are Now Online

Residents 65 and older use the web to keep in touch with friends and family, look for relevant info

December 29, 2014

Millions of older people in Germany can no longer imagine life without the internet, according to a BITKOM study, “Senioren in der digitalen Welt,” based on a survey of 1,000 consumers ages 65 and older by research firm forsa in November 2014. Fully 38% of the sample were online—a gain of 6 percentage points compared with 2013—and 46% of those polled said they personally couldn’t do without the web.

Senior Internet Users in Germany, 2013 & 2014 (% of respondents)

More than half of older internet users (52%) said the web had improved their quality of life, and six in 10 said it helped keep them mentally fit. The web was also a hit as a source of information; 81% of respondents who accessed the internet said they had used it to extend their knowledge. In fact, seniors who did go online were typically involved in a wide variety of activities, ranging from email (mentioned by 91%) and news (79%) to health guidance (68%), travel planning (65%) and online shopping (57%). Half of those polled also said they banked online. On average, digital seniors spent 51 minutes per day on the web.

Digital Activities of Senior Internet Users in Germany, Nov 2014 (% of respondents)

Some older residents in Germany remain determined not to join the digital world. Two-thirds (66%) of non-users said they didn’t need the web, and 41% said they didn’t want to get involved with it at their age. Much of this hesitation may have stemmed from their living situations, though. More than half of non-users said they didn’t have the technical means to access the internet; that could be interpreted as either the know-how or the equipment necessary to go online, or both.

Anxiety wasn’t a major factor in decisions to avoid the web. Just 3% of non-users said they were afraid of the internet itself. The proportions who were concerned about computer viruses or thought their personal data could be compromised rose into double digits but represented only 11% and 17% of the sample, respectively.

Demographic Profile of Internet Users in Germany, 2011-2014 (% of respondents in each group)

The BITKOM figures are broadly in line with November data from Initiative D21. Crucially, though, that source reported a sharp divide between younger seniors in Germany—ages 60 to 69—and those 70 and older. In the former group, nearly two-thirds (64.5%) used the internet, but that share dropped to 29.4% among respondents 70 and older.

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