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Seniority on the Web: The Fastest Growing Online Population

  |  December 17, 2002   |  Comments

It ain't your Grandma's Internet! Online seniors are dynamic, affluent, and, as a group, growing much faster than you think.

One of the biggest myths about online advertising is seniors are neophytes. Is there an age gap on the Net?

Let's take a look at the online adult population as a whole. According to the data from The Harris Poll, fully two-thirds (66 percent) of American adults, or 137 million people, are now online. This includes over half (55 percent) of all adults who access the Internet from home; almost a third (30 percent) who access it from work; and nearly one in five adults who go online from a school, library, cyber cafe, or other location. Third Age.com found over the next 15 years, the 50-64 year-old market will grow 50 percent and the 65-plus market will grow 32 percent. The 18-40 market will grow only 3 percent.

A recent study, "The Truth About Brand Loyalty and the 45+ Market," conducted by Roper ASW and released by AARP, says more than 93.7 million adults aged 45 or older collectively hold over $750 billion in discretionary household income. AARP identifies three segments within this group. To reach each, marketers will need to take different approaches to match their needs, lifestyles, and life stages. Here's how the AARP defines these segments:

  • The Leading Edge of Baby Boomers (ages 45 to 56). These consumers are in their peak careers years and juggling work and family. They have probably acquired many necessities and can spend on maintaining and improving their lifestyles.

  • The Gap Generation (ages 57 to 65). These adults are maintaining their careers or making a transition to part-time work, volunteering, or leisure activities. They're asking themselves what kind of lifestyle they want for themselves, not for their families.

  • Life, Part 2 (age 66 and over). This group is living through the freedom years with fewer family and work responsibilities. They're experiencing a host of changes in lifestyles, work choices, leisure, housing, activities, and interests.

What's clicking with seniors? According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, this group is a solid 13 percent of the U.S. population but only 4 percent of the active (online in the past month) online population. Below are more Pew findings.

This group mirrors the early Internet population:

  • About 60 percent are men.

  • Forty percent are women.

  • They're more likely than their offline peers to be married.

  • They're highly educated.

  • They have relatively high retirement incomes.

Their characteristics include the following:

  • Many wired seniors are newcomers to the Web.

  • They're more likely than younger Americans to be online on a typical day.

  • The most fervent wired seniors say the Web helps them better connect with loved ones and makes it easier get information they seek.

The five top uses of the Web by seniors are:

  • Using email

  • Looking up hobby information

  • Seeking financial information

  • Reading the news

  • Checking weather reports

This audience is growing. It should be closely watched by agencies and advertisers alike. Gearing a campaign toward online seniors? Remember, it's about the experience.

Seana is on vacation this week. Today's column originally ran earlier in the year.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Seana Mulcahy

Seana Mulcahy is vice president, director of interactive media at Mullen (an IPG company). She's been creating online brands since before the first banner was sold. Her expertise includes online and traditional media planning and buying, e-mail marketing, viral marketing, click-stream analysis, customer tracking, promotions, search engine optimization and launching brands online. Prior to Mullen, Seana was vice president of media services at Carat Interactive. She's built online media services divisions for three companies and has worked with clients spanning financial, telecom, high-tech, healthcare and retail. Not surprisingly, she has taught, lectured and written about the industry for numerous trade associations and publications.

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