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Are boomers and seniors really online?

Senior Director, Social Media

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Since we’re a digital agency we have a bias towards online trends and usage numbers. We don’t discount the offline world, but we’re confident that the current migrations to online channels will not only continue, but accelerate, until “offline” is just “online” presented on media such as billboards, shop windows, hospital walls, and other interactive devices in the environment. One myth we have heard on occasion is that the older audiences are not online. Here are two sources of data that might clarify things a bit…

PEW Internet Data

As it is with the ambient environment becoming more digital, so too are the full range of demographics in the US steadily marching toward digital saturation. This is a series of charts I made a while back, and keep updated based on the latest demographic information from PEW Internet (note that the “Usage over Time” spreadsheet supplied by PEW only goes to August 2012). The charts build on one another to show common activities by age group:

Internet usage by age group

Internet usage by age group

Most Americans are online, and the trend is unmistakable. There are two forces at work here:

  1. Society is increasingly online, so even the boomers and 65+ groups are pulled there by the services available, and,
  2. Over time the age groups “age in” to usage as people who were using the internet in the boomer age group move into the 65+ group (and continue using the internet).
Email usage - of those online

Email usage – of those online

You want to reach 90%+ of your online market? Email is your channel.

Search usage - of those online

Search usage – of those online

Likewise, search is 80%+ across the age groups. This is your gateway tool to help all users find your materials.

The advantage of the PEW data is that they have a very strong reputation for accuracy. The data is fairly old, however, so what do the latest numbers show?

Google Report

Google released a report: Reaching Today’s Boomers & Seniors Online. This report shows now only that the older generations are online, but that their online usage habits are surprisingly similar to the younger groups. Some of the findings of the report:

The Internet is the first choice for finding information:

The internet is #1

The internet is #1

For those who watch video online, YouTube is the number one channel:

YouTube is the #1 channel for online video for users aged 45+

YouTube is the #1 channel for online video for users aged 45+

Social networking is surprisingly popular among boomers and seniors:

Facebook is by far the most popular channel for these age groups… and this reflects the population at large:

Boomer and senior social platforms, compared to the general population

Boomer and senior social platforms, compared to the general population

Online boomers and seniors are there to be challenged, and health is their number one topic of interest:

Health is the most important topic to boomers and seniors online

Health is the most important topic to boomers and seniors online

Boomers and Seniors are Online

We knew this, but it just gets more and more apparent… boomers and seniors are online and their usage mimics the younger demographics. There are a few percentage points between the groups, but the evidence all points to substantial, and growing, online usage. We are rapidly heading to saturation where the entire audience is online, and if you want to reach them, you need to be there in force.

 

More About the Author

Brad Einarsen

Brad is Klick's Senior Director leading the social practice. His group ensures that clients get the best bang for their buck on the social platforms.

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