Four facts about how old people use the internet

Retail insights and research company, Fung Global Retail and Technology, recently released its fascinating report on the "Silver Wave" - dedicated to understanding and appreciating the opportunities that the aging consumer can bring retailers.

The full report covers all kinds of areas including demographics, spending patterns, household circumstances and much more. However I wanted to focus on one area in particular - how "Silvers" use the internet and technology. Here are some of the key findings:

Most seniors use the internet

In developed economies, a clear majority of seniors are now online. In countries such as the UK and Germany, online penetration rates for seniors are now close to average penetration rates a few years ago.

The difference isn't as big as you thought

The gap between connectivity levels between silvers and the total population has narrowed significantly: in the UK, it narrowed from 40% versus 80% in 2010 to 70% versus 90% in 2015.

Silvers love shopping

Online shopping is a fast growing area for the silver generation. If adoption continues at current pace, e-commerce participation rates between younger silvers and the UK average will equalize around 2021.

But they aren't huge fans of the smartphone, yet

Despite increasing internet usage and e-commerce participation, seniors still lag behind substantially with regards to smartphones - which clearly affects how they use the internet on the move. In the US, just three in 10 seniors owned a smartphone in 2015, according to a Pew Research Center survey. 

However, Fung Global Retail & Tech say they expect this to significantly change in the next few years. Reasons included: 

  • A large majority of US seniors own a cell phone of some kind (78% in 2015), so this demographic definitely sees the value in mobile devices.
  • The next generation of silvers (those who are currently aged 50–64) show close-to-average levels of device ownership. 
  • The gap between seniors and the total population is much lower in tablets (in the US), suggesting that many seniors also see the value in mobile Internet connectivity.

What this means for marketers

It's true that older age groups do, naturally, have lower internet usage, as they didn't grow up with the technology. However, this report clearly shows that attitudes and behaviours are changing, and fast. 

While some marketers may be guilty of ignoring this group when it comes to the online world, now is the time to seize the opportunity presented to us. Seniors have money to spend, and only the companies that understand how to reach them will reap the rewards.