Silver surfers

The term silver surfers has now been officially recognised. The Oxford Business Dictionary for English Users defines the term as “an older person who spends a lot of time using the Internet, usually used by people over the age of 50.”

Over the past few years the Internet, and the behaviour of the people using the Internet, has changed. They have both evolved as a product of increased availability to a continually growing number of users. Below are a few facts and stats compiled by the UK charity Age Concern and other sources:

The UK population is ageing at an unprecedented rate. In 2003 one in three people in the UK were aged 50+ and by 2031 this is predicted to rise to two-fifths.

There are already more people aged 60+ than are aged 0-14 which has wide ranging implications for society. This will obviously also have an impact on the Internet and how its evolution will continue from this point.

Furthermore an online survey of Internet users aged over 50 was conducted by Millenium and subsequently published in an article by Computer Weekly. Of the 750 people surveyed, 90% of those, which were Internet enabled, are spending at least 10 hours a week online. A different survey spread even further and some might say, through a surprising light on how different age groups are embracing this new pastime of web surfing:

In the UK silver surfers are claiming a bigger share of the online population at the expense of people under 25. Between Oct 06 – Oct 07 the share of the UK Internet population made up by under 25 year-olds has decreased from 29% to 25% - a relative drop in share of 16%. During the same period the share made of 55+ year-olds has increased from 16% to 19% - a relative increase of 22%. Overall, the average age of the UK Internet population has risen from 35.7 to 37.9 in this period.

It then goes on to reveal:

UK Internet users aged 55+ are set to overtake 35-44 year olds as the demographic age group with the largest representation online, according to Hitwise. Those aged 55+ accounted for 22% of UK visits to all categories of websites in the four weeks to 12th May 2007, up 54% since 2005 and 40% since 2006. This compares to 23.5% of Internet visits from 35-44 year olds.

Although many companies are yet to recognise the value within this demographic Saga, the British company that specialises in financial services and holidays for the over 50s, is one company keen to exploit the gap online. In November 2007 it officially launched Saga Zone, a social network for its core customer base. It believes it can build on the success of Saga Magazine – with over 700,000 subscriptions, Britain’s largest subscription-based consumer monthly– and capture a new audience online. Help the Aged also provide good advice for the 50+ Internet user with some useful tips.

So what are we to take from the information provided above? Well the traditional view of the Internet being mostly used by teenagers and young adults is soon to become outdated, although some might argue that it has already reached that point. Another traditional view, that the more senior members of our society will not embrace this kind of new technology can safely be put to bed.

Silver surfers are not only the fastest growing group of people using the Internet, but it’s safe to say that they are fast becoming one of the most influential elements in shaping the Internet of the future.

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