New research from Mintel reveals that seniors are becoming more tech savvy and engaged in online activities by the day, and the percentage using the internet for leisure, research and social media will continue to increase as Baby Boomers shift toward senior status. Among seniors who are online, more than half (56%) go online for casual gaming, six in ten (62%) use the internet to manage their finances, such as banking and paying bills, and 55% use it to plan travel.

Seniors represent the fastest-growing segment of social media users, and among Internet users aged 65+, some 61% used the Internet to access social networks (eg Facebook, Twitter, etc) in the three months prior to being surveyed.

Mintel’s research also reveals that seniors use social media for mostly the same purposes as younger adults (eg to connect with family and friends, share photos, play games), however there are some slight differences in type of content that seniors prefer. For example, seniors are less likely to respond to jargon or “text talk” (ie acronyms and shorted variations of words, LOL).

America has already begun to experience the first tremors of the coming agequake. Today, about 44.6 million Americans are aged 65+ and by 2050, the number is expected to double to about 89 million. With this population growth, senior use of websites will only continue to increase year after year and website developers will need to include seniors in their usability testing to ensure that sites are easily understood and navigable for those who may have difficulty reading small print, discerning colors or using unsteady hands.

While Internet use is increasing among the older and wiser crowd, print media refuses to be ignored and has a wide audience as well. One in five (19%) seniors subscribe to magazines specifically targeted towards them, such as AARP, The Magazine.

Print media and TV advertising are still the best way to reach seniors due to high penetration (97% of senior households own a TV according to Mintel’s Televisions – US, Sept 2012) and the amount of time spent daily watching TV (an average of four hours per day). However, nearly one-third (32%) of those 65+ say they spend less time reading magazines in print because they are available online and 33% say they spend less time reading newspapers because of the internet and 27% watch less TV due to the Internet.

Companies that target seniors might want to consider adding social media to their advertising, despite the current low penetration, since senior use of social media is expected to grow exponentially as the Boomers ease their way into retirement.

Baby Boomers – who will be joining the ranks of seniors en masse over the next decade – do not want to be thought of as ‘old,’ and marketers will need to be sensitive to their portrayal of seniors and language used in communications. Given that the upcoming generation of seniors is expected to be the wealthiest yet, the implications of this growing segment for marketers, retailers, and manufacturers promise to be both dramatic and far-reaching.

Fiona is a Senior Lifestyle and Leisure Analyst at Mintel.  She specializes in consumer behavior, demographics, travel and green trends, and she uses her expertise to advise clients on marketing strategies and business decisions.

 

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