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pew-internet-use-by-age-june2012.pngThe proportion of American adults aged over 65 who use the internet or email has passed the 50% threshold for the first time, reaching 53% in April 2012, per survey results [pdf] released in June by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. This represents a significant uptick in growth: in August 2011 just 41% of seniors were using the internet or email, and the proportion had only grown by 3% points from August 2008. Although online access by seniors remains well behind the 82% average for American adults aged over 18, seniors’ frequency of use is much closer to their younger counterparts. Indeed, 70% of internet users aged over 65 say they use the internet on a typical day. This compares to 87% of internet users aged 18-29 who do so on a typical day, the highest of all age groups.

7 in 10 Seniors Own a Cell Phone

Cell phone penetration among seniors also appears to have grown markedly. 69% reported ownership of a cell phone, representing a 21% increase from 57% in May 2010. Although this is again behind other age groups, which hover around the 90% mark, it is the only gadget for which a majority of seniors report ownership.

Even so, seniors (48%) rival 18-29-year-olds (51%) in desktop ownership, although this is a function of the preference that the younger set has for laptops (75%). For newer devices such as e-readers and tablets, seniors lag behind other age groups, at 11% and 8% penetration, respectively. This compares to 23% and 26% penetration, respectively, for 30-49-year-olds, who have the highest levels of ownership of these devices. Among 50-64-year-olds, 16% own an e-reader and 14% a tablet. According to a Jumptap report released in June, Baby Boomers (aged 45-64), are 3% less likely to own an iPad and 19% more likely to own a Kindle Fire.

1 in 3 Internet-Enabled Seniors Use Social Networks

Data from Pew’s “Older adults and internet use” also indicates that as of February 2012, 34% of internet users aged 65 and older used social networking sites, with slightly more than half of those doing so on a typical day. Among all internet users, two-thirds use social networking sites, and 48% do so on a typical day, with the highest overall (86%) and daily (70%) use by 18-29-year-olds.

There is much less variation in age groups when it comes to email use. 30-49-year-old internet users sport the highest rate of email usage, at 93%, only 7% points higher than seniors, who have the lowest rate, at 86%. Daily email use by seniors does trail by a more significant margin of about 20% (48% vs. roughly 60% for the other age groups).

Other Findings:

  • Internet usage is much less widespread among Americans aged over 75. As of April 2012, internet use by these Americans had only reached 34%.
  • 56% of Americans over the age of 75 own a cell phone of some kind.
  • Among adults 65 and older, 39% have a broadband connection at home, up from 8% in 2005.

About the Data: The Pew internet use data is based on telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from March 15 to April 3, 2012, among a sample of 2,254 adults, age 18 and older. Telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (1,351) and cell phone (903, including 410 without a landline phone). Other data is based on a January 20-February 19, 2012 tracking survey of 2,253 adults age 18 and older.

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