I sometimes imagine our online visitors as urbanites, sitting at a café in New York City and dreaming of trading their penthouse with a view for a country home in the midst of rolling hills. Discussing website traffic has become a common occurrence in today’s business arena. Is it possible that Seniors browse our online properties?
Several months ago, I joined an Question & Answer forum and soon discovered an entire community of people of all races and ages. This is where I met a sweet 76-year-old German woman who travels the US in an RV year-round with her dear husband and cat.
I was astonished. We tend to equate technology with youth. This mother, grand-mother and great-grand-mother who has experienced war, loss, cultural transplantation and over seven decades of life spanning two continents keeps in touch with friends around the world via online forums, maintains a travelogue and blog, publishes books online, researches services and does her banking from her laptop. She is not alone.
According to the Pew Research Center, a “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world, “Older generations use the Internet as a tool for research, shopping and banking”. Research from this group also reveals that 56% of Internet users 64 – 72 and 47% of users 73 years old and above buy product online, as opposed to only 38% of teens.
In a November 2009 survey of Internet users 65+, Nielson, a measurement firm specializing in trend analysis, estimates that 17.5 million seniors are now online, compared with 11.3 million in 2004. Furthermore, it appears that seniors spend as much as 58 hours a month on the Web and Google Search is their first destination, with 10,253 clicks in November 2009 alone.
Now, I picture some free-spirited folks, well into their retirement years, browsing the Web in search of a distinguished community where to settle down after seeing the country through the windows of their road-faring homes. They may live quietly and we may not have occasion to cross paths. When we do, we receive a gift, for these folks bring to our communities richness of spirit, wisdom and a fresh perspective no computer screen can provide.