May 14, 2010
“Back in my day we didn’t use no new fangled Internets! We used books—and WE LIKED IT! We didn’t have any ‘wikipedia’ or ‘Google’ or ‘YouTubes’! We looked up information in the dictionary and watched movies in the theatres… and we LIKED IT!”
This rant conjures up images of Dana Carvey’s “Grumpy Old Man” from the glory days of NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Refusing to acknowledge even the most basic additions to modern day life, Grumpy Old Man stereotyped “the older generation.” He would never use the Internet or own a cell phone, and he would just assume that the term “YouTube” was poor grammar. He also represented perceptions of many people toward older generations—people who “couldn’t possibly” understand how to program their VCR’s let alone surf the Internet.
Yet, as funny as the portrayal was, it has proven to be inaccurate in a world where 74 percent of the U.S. population is now online. The days of the Internet being “just for the kids” are past as the online population now closely resembles the actual U.S. population.
According to EMarketer.com, two age groups showed the most amount of growth from 2008 to 2009: 0-11 and 65+. As of 2008, there were 14.9 million Internet users in the 65+ category. In 2009, the number jumped to 16.3 million and remained at 7.7 percent of U.S. Internet population. For 2010, the numbers are anticipated to jump to 221 million users over 65 or 8.5 percent of the overall population.
The trend in age shifting was also reflected in data published by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. In “Generations Online in 2009,” demographic breakdowns of the U.S. Internet populations in both 2005 and 2008 were contrasting with some surprising results. While the 25 – 29 age bracket remained flat for both years, in 2005, those aged 70 – 74 comprised 26 percent of the online community. In 2008, that number had jumped to 45 percent. Similar growth was seen in the 75+ bracket—jumping to 27 percent.
This means that the number of people over 65 using the Internet is growing, and it’s growing fast. More than any other age group, seniors are taking to the Internet in droves. Retiring Baby Boomers have aged with rapid changes in technology. They’ve lived in a world with constant advances, and they’re not as reticent to adopt new forms of communications as Dana Carvey might suggest. It’s a fact that advertisers can no longer ignore—the “senior citizens” have arrived on the Internet and they’re coming en masse.
 “Generations Online in 2009”, Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 2009