Internet Usage Among Seniors
by: Jeremy Trogg


Though people over 60 still lag behind their younger counterparts in Internet usage, the number of seniors online is expected to swell from 14 million in 2000 to more than 27 million in by 2003, according to Internet market research firm Jupiter Media Metrix.  

The main reason seniors start using computers is because of e-mail. Next, they begin researching topics such as health, investing and entertainment. Then, they start shopping and join discussion groups.

Most Internet marketing experts agree that this usage pattern is the same as the general public's.

Older Americans also have financial clout, which should also attract marketer's attention. According to the American Banking Association, older adults own 77 percent of the country's financial assets.  It is just a matter of mistaken assumption right now that seniors are not using the Internet.

It is truly amazing that corporate America has yet to wake up to the idea that seniors are online with many retirees spending hours online every day and learning to shop online as well.

The biggest mistake is that marketers fail to attract older adults to their Web sites when they use flashy and complex designs.  Older eyes generally have to work harder to focus on text, but companies that are interested in attracting senior markets can easily make those modifications on their site.

Plenty of white space is critical along with keeping the text on each line relatively short.  This is good marketing in general but especially important to older adults.

The National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine have published a brochure on how to make Web sites senior friendly. The brochure emphasizes consistent design and clearly presented text and simple backgrounds to make reading easier for older eyes.

Another thing that can be extremely important to senior adults online is that page file size should be relatively small.  Since many seniors have not yet moved to broadband services and therefore rely on dial-up modems, keeping that file size small lets the page load quicker and keeps the viewer happier longer.  It is all about knowing your market.

Seniors are not adverse to learning technology.  They're just unfamiliar with it, and once they have access to these new tools and the knowledge of how to use them, their lives are enriched.


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