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Why Senior Citizens Use the Internet

Librarian Bertrand Bobis (L) teaches a senior citizen how to use a Facebook account during a class at a branch of the New York Public Library in New York August 13, 2012. Seniors, some in their 90s, could soon be making new friends on Facebook thanks to New York libraries offering classes to help the elderly learn, or brush up their social network skills.

In the coming weeks, the Advanced Communications Law and Policy Institute (ACLP) at New York Law School and Older Americans Technology Services (OATS) will release their report, “Closing the Broadband Gap: How Seniors are Navigating the Digital Highways.” On Wednesday, April 9th, Dr. John B. Horrigan presented the findings of this report. The study relied on a national telephone survey of senior citizens age 65 and older. It explores why and how senior citizens with broadband connections use the Internet.

Seniors make up a sizable percentage of the United States population. The 2010 Census found that 13 percent of the US population were senior citizens and by 2050 the share is projected to increase to 20 percent. A Pew study found that 47 percent of all seniors have broadband at home.[1]

Figure 1. Motivation for Going Online

Figure 1. Motivation for Going Online

The findings of the ACLP and OATS study are important because they show us the online usage patterns of a growing population that is living in an increasingly digital world. Online proficiency is critical for older adults as Internet access is a major avenue to procure important information about healthcare, finances, and to communicate with family members.

Figure 2. How Seniors Use the Internet

Figure 2. How Seniors Use the Internet

 TechTank will stay tuned to this topic and will link to the full report upon release.


[1] Aaron Smith, “Older Adults and Technology Use,” Pew Research: Internet Project. April 3, 2014. http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/

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