New Study Finds Steep Increase in Internet Use Among Older Americans

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By: Miki Johnson

Online users 55 years and older are spending more time on the Internet and less time with offline media sources, according to a report released Monday by BURST! Media.

Offline media outlets are seeing more competition than ever from Internet sources for what is seen as their base demographic — 55 years and older — according to a survey of nearly 1,000 web users 55 years and older.

Although adults 55 and older are the heaviest consumers of offline media, 57.9% of respondents said Internet sources shared an advantage in providing “content I cannot find on television, radio, magazines or newspapers,” the survey found.

When asked about their use of various forms of broadcast media and reasons for using the Internet, respondents said the two main advantages Internet media had over its offline counterparts were on-demand access to content (69.2%) and more accurate information (67.5%). Other Internet advantages included up-to-date content (45.6%), access from various locations (33.7%), and better/more focused content (32.8%).

Despite the media industry’s preoccupation with young, computer-savvy readers, older adults are one of the fastest growing groups of Web users, BURST! Media Market Research Manager Chuck Moran said in a release, citing a comScore Media Metrix finding that shows the number of adults 55 and older online this year has grown 20% to 27 million unique individuals.

Respondents in the BURST! Media survey also said they are spending less time consuming offline news, while 60.7% said they use the Internet more today than a year ago. Compared to last year, 44.1% spend less time reading newspapers, 44.0% spend less time listening to the radio, 43.6% spend less time watching television, and 36.6% spend less time reading magazines. Two-thirds say they are going to more Web sites compared to a year ago.

Topping the list of online searches is information on health care. Three-quarters (77.1%) of respondents searched for health care information, with 28.1% of online women and 24.9% of online men searching for it at least once a week. More than half of respondents were looking for information on symptoms and treatments for specific illnesses.

Other top reasons for Internet use among these older adult users included gathering information for personal needs (56.3%); communicating with others (53.6%); looking for news, sports, and weather (48.8%); and researching product information (43.0%).

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