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Seniors Slowly Shift to Digital

Internet penetration rising faster than average

February 16, 2011

In 2010, seniors ages 65 and older made up 13% of the US population. By 2030, when baby boomers will have aged into the cohort, the US Census Bureau predicts nearly one in five Americans will be seniors—a marketing target that should not be ignored.

eMarketer estimates that as of 2011, less than half of this population will be online. But internet penetration will increase steadily as more tech-savvy boomers become seniors. By 2015, eMarketer forecasts, there will be over 26 million senior internet users in the US.

“TV, newspapers and radio continue to dominate seniors’ regular media habits,” said Mike Froggatt, eMarketer research analyst and author of the new report “Demographic Profile—Seniors.” “However, internet penetration is expected to rise among seniors and the overall online senior population will increase dramatically, making this an important growth demographic for marketers.”

US Senior* vs. Total Internet User Penetration, 2010-2015 (% of population in each group)

Mobile phone penetration is significantly higher, though seniors still prefer landlines: 77% said they were a necessity, vs. 29% who said the same of wireless phones, according to Pew Research Center. Nearly seven in 10 Americans ages 65 and older will have a mobile phone this year, vs. 75.5% overall, eMarketer estimates.

US Senior* vs. Total Mobile Phone User Penetration, 2008-2014 (% of population in each group)

Seniors who own cellphones are far less likely than younger age groups to send text messages. They also have lower adoption rates when it comes to the mobile internet and smartphones, but falling prices and carrier subsidies should make both more appealing in the future.

Also growing in appeal are social networking sites. Seniors, like those in other age groups, mainly use social networks for connecting with friends and family. Between 2008 and 2010, social networking increased nearly sixfold among seniors, from 4.7% to 28%. eMarketer forecasts social network penetration will rise from 31% of senior internet users this year to 36% by 2013.

“Social networks are gaining traction slowly among older users,” said Froggatt. “For now, online seniors’ main activities are email and searches for useful and age-appropriate topics. Marketers targeting seniors online will have the most success with email marketing and targeted search and display ads around popular topics such as politics, health information, financial services and travel.”


The full report, “Demographic Profile—Seniors,” also answers these key questions:

  • What are the population and demographics of seniors in the US?
  • What are the key media habits among seniors?
  • How many seniors are online?
  • What are seniors doing when they are online?
  • How many seniors use mobile phones and what do they do with them?

To purchase the report, click here. Total Access clients, log in and view the report now.


Check out today’s other article, “The Differences Between Mobile and Tablet Advertising.”

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