EMarketer Predicts Graying Of The Internet

Two-thirds of adults ages 50 to 64 use the Internet, and as they age, will significantly alter the digital landscape, according to an eMarketer report released Thursday.

"As boomers age, they will force change upon the companies that do business online, just as they have changed other industries at earlier stages of their lives," wrote eMarketer Senior Analyst and report author Debra Aho Williamson. "While today's seniors are a cautious bunch online, the next generation of seniors is not ... They use the Internet at home and at work, and they will carry those usage patterns over into the next phase of their lives."

The current generation of senior citizens age 65 and older are far less likely to be Internet-savvy, with just 28 percent of that group using the Web, according to the report. Williamson attributed the drop-off to the fact that these seniors retired before online access became common in the workplace.

The eMarketer report, "Seniors Online: How Aging Boomers Will Shake Up the Market," cites financial services, health care, pharmaceuticals, and real estate as just a few of the categories that will undergo "massive change" as baby boomers--the oldest of which will turn 60 in 2006--demand online services to cater to their expectations.

The report estimates that this year there are some 33.2 million 50- to-64-year-olds online--three times more than the number of online users ages 65 and older. Unlike today's seniors, boomers--those born after World War II between 1946 and 1964--are proficient broadband Internet users. Forty-four percent of Internet users ages 50 to 64 have high-speed broadband access, compared with 28 percent of those ages 65 and older.

As boomers approach the next phase of their lives, companies will have no choice but to adjust to their largely ignored demographic, with $1 trillion in spending power, according to eMarketer.

Both age groups--50 to 64 and 65 and older--expressed a significant interest in instant messaging, which is surprising because teens and young adults are typically assumed to have a monopoly on the medium. Thirty-four percent of 50- to-64-year-olds IM, apparently, while 27 percent of those 65 and older IM, eMarketer reported.

The older the Internet user, the more willing they are on average to click on sponsored links, eMarketer reported. For those age 19 and younger, there is a 50/50 chance that they'll click through on links that seem relevant; 69 percent of 30- to-39-year-olds said they would click through; 80 percent of those ages 50 to 59; and just over 90 percent of those age 60 and older said they'd click on a sponsored link if they thought it was relevant.

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