Seniors are taking over the Web

Stand aside, kids — the old-timers are taking over the Web. And they’ll change the look and content of the Web when they’re done. That may be a shocker to some who are fixated on the Internet’s hip, youthful aura. But get with it: the seniors are catching up fast.

Consider on-line buying: older Americans, not twentysomethings, are leading the stampede.

The age group with the highest concentration of on-line buyers is the 50 to 64 segment, at 27 per cent; the fastest-growing segment is 65 and over — just 4 per cent last year, but up to 16 per cent this year.

Altogether, 68 per cent of on-line buyers are over 40, according to a survey released last month by Ernst & Young and the National Retail Federation.

Research from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has found senior citizens are the fastest-growing segment of the Internet community.

Seniors do have to learn how to relate to computers, but “when seniors get past their fear, they become the most energetic, enthusiastic computer users you’ve ever seen,” says Sandy Berger, who hosts the AARP’s computers and technology page (

For elderly people who can’t travel as before, the Web brings the world to them and helps them stay mentally active. Physically active seniors appreciate the Web as a tool for daily living, providing information, convenience, entertainment and connection to family.

What does that mean to business people? Seniors are an affluent market with real needs and time on their hands to do some serious surfing. The travel, financial services, health, retirement homes and services industries can get a big boost from the Web if they start targeting seniors. Expect to see more products targeted at the elderly, like Bausch & Lomb’s “screen magnifier” — a giant magnifying glass that fits over your computer screen.

Seniors also will influence Web-page design. They want simple, easy-to-understand information, Berger says — and that means simple, easy-to-understand presentation.

Too many Web pages are cluttered and overwhelming. The AARP’s site, by contrast, is easy on the eyes.

So don’t get hung up on youthful glitz. The real Web generation isn’t the teens and twentysomethings.

It’s the parents of the baby boomers.