"Check the Computer, Mom"

Misha Cornes writes in Adotas, an interactive media newsletter, about the digital divide and the senior online set.

“My mom is 64. On those rare occasions when I send her an email, with, say, my flight information, I have to call her first to let her know to “check the computer”. Her PC sits in the far part of the house, under a plastic cover, and is connected to the Internet via a painfully slow dial-up connection.

My dad is even worse. At 66, he refuses to learn to type, and he is the kind of executive who still has his assistant print out emails to read at his desk.

Well let me paint a different picture. There are 11.5 million Seniors who regularly access the Internet, defined as those 65 or older.
Jupiter expects that number to double by 2010. Whereas only a third of the Senior population is regularly online today, in 2010, online Seniors will represent half of the total Senior population.

They’re educated and affluent. The divide between online Senior consumers and their offline counterparts mirrors other age groups. The have more disposable income and are more likely to have a college degree. They are also more likely to be married or living with a partner.

They’re not all watching 60 Minutes. Seniors use email, send e-greetings, and share photos at nearly the same rates as the general online population.

So how are Seniors different? Simply put, they don’t have the same trust in technology that we find in younger consumers. It’s no surprise that in a recent Forrester survey, only 25% of Seniors somewhat or completely agreed that “Technology has made my life easier”. Only 18% agree that “The Internet helps me get ahead in life”. They can perceive the Web as an intimidating technology barrier, rather than as a source of knowledge or productivity.