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UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

September 13, 2001 Contact: Anne Dybek (312) 996-8279; adybek@uic.edu


A new report reveals that 15 percent of Americans aged 65 or older, or 4 million seniors, are fervent users of the Internet.

Steve Jones, University of Illinois at Chicago communication professor and department head, was part of a research team that collected and interpreted the findings of the report released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

"Getting health information, staying in touch with family and keeping active are the advantages of going online for senior citizens," said Jones, who is a senior research fellow at the Pew Internet Project. "Seniors who try the Internet realize these benefits very quickly."

Last year, the Pew Internet & American Life Project conducted 4,335 phone interviews with seniors across the nation. The project looked at the online behavior of 670 respondents who are Internet users in a report called "Wired Seniors: A Fervent Few, Inspired by Family Ties."

Seniors give their top five reasons for using the Internet as sending email, looking up hobby information, seeking financial information, reading the news and checking weather reports.

As a user group, they are marked by some specific characteristics. For example, many report that they are newcomers to the Internet who were coaxed into going online by their children or grandchildren. Once logged on, however, they become eager Internet users.

Wired seniors look like the early Internet users. About three of every five users are male. Users are more likely than their offline peers to be married, highly educated and enjoying relatively high retirement incomes.

Other findings include:

  • Eighty-four percent of wired seniors got Internet access for reasons unrelated to work or school. Family ties were reported as the prime reason for going online.
  • Of that percentage, 48 percent were encouraged to do so by family members, a higher percentage than any other age group.
  • Another 45 percent got Internet access because it was something they personally wanted to do.

Findings from the report also show that the majority of older Americans are resistant to the Internet's allure:

  • Twenty-one percent of Americans over age 65 say they use a computer on "at least an occasional basis," compared with 59 percent of their closest peers (age 50-64), and 64 percent of all Americans.
  • Eighty-one percent of people who say they definitely will not go online are over 50. Fifty-six percent of those over age 65 say they will definitely not go online, compared with just 6 percent who say they definitely plan to go online.
  • A significant shift in Internet access occurs around age 55. Fifty-two percent of 50-54 year-olds go online. But only 43 percent of 55-59 year-olds use the Internet and just 34 percent of 60-64 year-olds have been online. Twenty-three percent of 65-69 year-olds go online and the numbers continue to decline from there.

"The image of Internet users as the 'young and wired' ought to be at least partially replaced by one of those who are 'older, wiser and wired,'" said Jones.

- UIC -

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