November 26, 2003, 12:00 AM

The over-65s are catching up to younger consumers in online use

In the past year, the number of Internet users 65 or older grew 25%, the fastest growing age segment of new users, according to the latest report from Nielsen/NetRatings.

First it was Middle America going online, then it was women going online, now the further evidence that the Internet is becoming mainstream is the rapid growth of the over-65 crowd as online users. In the past year, the number of Internet users 65 or older grew 25%, the fastest growing age segment of new users, according to the latest report from Nielsen/NetRatings.

In October, 9.6 million Internet users were over 65, up from 7.6 million in October 2002. In spite of the growth, though, over-65 Internet users represented 7% of active users, while they represent 12.4% of the general population. They were 5.9% of the active Internet population a year ago.

"As a whole, the Internet audience is continuing to become more representative of the general population," says Greg Bloom, Nielsen/NetRatings’ senior Internet analyst. "Thanks to new technologies such as broadband and wireless, the bulk of the Internet`s recent growth has been associated to higher levels of activity from experienced web users. However, as we continue to track year-over-year trends, we observe significant upticks in the online presence of important groups such as seniors."

Among over-65 users, the growth of women users was half again as large as the growth of men users; up 30% for women vs. 20% for men.

After the over-65s, the next fastest growing group of online users were the 55- to 64-year-olds, which increased 15%, to 15.6 million from 13.6 million. They represent 15% of the active online population, greater representation than their 8.6% portion of the general population.

Women over 65 increased their average web pages viewed per month by 14% in October vs. a year ago, while men users increased their pages viewed by 5%. Women increased their average time spent online by 6%, up by two hours vs. a year ago, while men increased their time online by 2%. While the number of sessions for women increased by 2%, the number of sessions for men decreased by 3%.

"The overall increase of web consumption by senior citizens is a great indicator of the growing online market potential with seniors," Bloom said. "More than 25 million adults over the age of 55 were online last month. That is clear evidence for advertisers and marketers looking to reach those older adults that the Internet should be part of the marketing mix."

 

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