Seismic Shift in Internet Age Mass

According to surveys through 2008 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, larger percentages of older generations are online now than in the past, and they are doing more activities online. Generation X (not Y) is the most likely group to bank, shop, and look for health information online. Boomers are just as likely as Generation Y to make travel reservations online. And even Silent Generation internet users are competitive when it comes to email.

The biggest increase in internet use since 2005 is the 70-75 year-old age group. While just over one-fourth (26%) of 70-75 year olds were online in 2005, 45% of that age group is currently online, and doing more activities online.

Instant messaging, social networking, and blogging have gained ground as communications tools, but email remains the most popular online activity, particularly among older internet users, writes Sydney Jones and Susannah Fox in the report. 74% of internet users age 64 and older send and receive email, making email the most popular online activity for this age group. 89% of teens claimed to use email in 2004. Now, just 73% currently say they use email.

Teens and Generation Y (age 18-32) are more likely than their older counterparts to seek entertainment through online videos, online games, and virtual worlds, and they are also more likely to download music to listen to later.

  • 78% of 12-17 year-old internet users play games online
  • 73% of online teens email, the second most popular activity for this age group
  • only 50% of Generation Y play online games

The report says that health questions drive internet users age 73 and older to the internet just as frequently as they drive Generation Y.  Researching health information is the third most popular online activity with the most senior age group, after email and online search.

Generation X (ages 33-44) continues to lead in online shopping:

  • 80% of Generation X internet users buy products online
  • 71% of internet users ages 18- 32 buy products online
  • 38% of online teens buy products online
  • 56% of internet users ages 64-72 do  
  • 47% of internet users age 73 and older buy online

67% Generation X internet users lead in online banking, while  57% of Generation Y to do their banking online, up from 38% in 2005. There has been no significant growth among older generations when it comes to banking online

Downloading videos is now being done more equally across all generations under 73 years old.

  • 31% of Generation X claim to download videos as of 2007
  • 38% of Generation Y downloaded videos 
  • 13% of G.I. Generation internet users (age 73+) reported downloading videos, up from 1% in 2005
  • 13% of the online Silent Generation (ages 64-72) say they download videos, up from 8% in 2005

Who are these people...

Generations Explained 


Birth Years

Ages in 2009

% Of Total Adult Population 

% Of Internet-Using Population

Gen Y (Millennials)





Gen X





Younger Boomers





Older Boomers





Silent Generation





G.I. Generation





Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project December 2008 survey, February 2009

The writers note, in summary, that "...contrary to the image of Generation Y as the 'Net Generation,' internet users in their 20s do not dominate every aspect of online life."

For additional information about the report, and access to the PDF file, please visit here.


1 comment about "Seismic Shift in Internet Age Mass".
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  1. Steve Latham from Encore Media Metrics, March 3, 2009 at 9:26 p.m.

    This is a great research note. It clearly debunks they myth that senior citizens are not online. Based on the pew stats, there are 20 million internet users over the age of 65. Also like the stat that Boomers are just as likely Gen Y'ers to book travel online.

    That's pretty exciting!

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