Contrary to the widely accepted notion that older Americans are separated from the Internet and e-commerce by an insurmountable “digital divide,” a survey released Wednesday by Media Metrix (Nasdaq: MMXI) shows that Americans born before 1964 are the fastest-growing population on the Web.
This older group, which expanded its Internet presence by 20 percent last year, outpaced the 18-to-24 year-old demographic by about one percentage point. The survey also showed that older users went online more frequently than their younger counterparts, stayed on longer, and visited more Web sites.
The older group is dominated by the “Baby Boom” generation, which includes those Americans born between 1946 and 1964.
Interestingly, the results come on the heels of a recent report by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) showing that a lack of confidence with the Internet and technology in general is keeping Baby Boomers away from the Web. In fact, the Media Metrix report shows that 45-to-64 year-olds are more apt to invest in high-tech gadgets of all sorts, including fax and copy machines, large screen televisions, and satellite dishes.
Of course, many of these purchases can be attributed to the fact that older Americans are generally more affluent than their younger counterparts and therefore have more disposable income, credit cards and frequent flier miles. In one example, Media Metrix found that older users are more apt to buy a new car rather than lease or buy a used one.
According to the survey, the 45-to-64 age group went online an average of 6.3 days more than the 18-to-24 year-old “Internet Generation,” stayed on more than two hours more, and visited an average of 150 more unique pages a month.
On the other hand, older users were outdone in their Web use in most categories by the 25-to-34 year-olds, who were online more often, longer, and viewed more pages.
The 35-to-44 age group fell between the older and younger users in all categories. However, the 25-to-34 and 35-to-44 age ranges showed much less growth in unique visitors – in the six percent range – as compared with 18 and 20 percent for the older and younger age groups.