Attention Senior Living Providers: Half of Seniors Are Now Online


May 9, 2013 | Social Media & Online

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, “53% of American adults age 65 and older now use the Internet or email.” In their report titled, “Older Adults and Internet Use,” Pew states, “Though these adults are still less likely than all other age groups to use the Internet, the latest data represent the first time that half of seniors are going online. After several years of very little growth among this group, these gains are significant.” The new data have significant implications for senior living marketing and website development, as well as for the value of senior living service offerings and amenities that cater to the lifestyle interests and preferences of current senior living residents.

Report Overview

According to Pew, more than half of American adults age 65 and older are now active online, representing a milestone in the behaviors of US seniors. As of 2012, one third (34%) of Internet users age 65 and older are using social networking sites such as Facebook and 18% do so on a typical day. By comparison, email use continues to be the foundation of online communications for seniors. As of August 2011, 86% of Internet users age 65 and older used email with 48% doing so on a typical day.

In terms of device ownership, a growing percentage of seniors now own a cell phone. Some 69% of adults ages 65 and older report that they have a mobile phone, up from 57% in May 2010. Even among those currently age 76 and older, 56% report owning a cell phone of some kind, up from 47% of this cohort in 2010.

Key Findings from the Pew Report:

  • Once online, most seniors make the Internet a regular part of their lives. For most online seniors, Internet use is a daily fixture in their lives. Among Internet users age 65 and older, 70% use the Internet on a typical day. Among all adult age groups, 82% of Internet users go online daily.
  • After age 75, Internet use declines. Internet usage is less prevalent among senior adults who are age 76 and older. As of 2012, Internet use among this group had reached only 34%.
  • The number of seniors using social networking is rising. One in three online seniors now use social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Between 2009 and 2011, social networking use among Internet users age 65 and older grew 150%, from 13% in 2009, to 33% in 2011.

In a related development, a recent study, “Internet Use and Depression Among Older Adults” was published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior and found that retirees who use the Internet regularly are 20% to 28% less likely to be classified as depressed. The research study by Shelia Cotten, a sociology professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, concluded that “The finding was a result of the connection and sense of community provided by the Internet.”

Implications for Senior Living Providers

Senior living marketing experts have known for a while that an appealing and informative website and targeted social media are essential tools for reaching adult children who are researching services for their aging parents. But now, the World Wide Web has taken on even greater significance for senior living marketers with more than half of senior adults also active online. A strong web presence and social networking initiatives have become increasingly important elements of a senior living provider’s comprehensive marketing strategy.

Another useful finding of the Pew study is that online services are an increasingly important and valued service to offer your residents. For an expanding percentage of mature adults, the Internet has become an integral part of their daily routine and it appears to offer therapeutic benefits as well.

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