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AARP: baby boomers are not comfortable with the Internet -- really?

Glass half full -- or half empty? Surprise! This new AARP study about Social Media and the Internet overrides previous assumptions about the 50-64 age range and comfort level with the Internet. Let's count just 40% of boomers as a fit with that description:17% indicate they are extremely comfortable and 23% are very comfortable.  Only 26% access the Internet via a laptop and only 4% through smart phones or cell phones -- 57% use a desktop computer. Only 27% are using social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter -- dominated by Facebook.

Children and grandchildren are the leading connections. No surprise as to who boomers are connecting with -- their children (62%) and grandchildren (36%) and (surprise) 73% are connected to other relatives. Among those introduced to the Internet by a family member,sixty-three percent credited this to their children.

So much for the iPad -- at least as of May 2010.  This survey confirms any assumptions at Apple about not bothering with boomers. While 83% had heard of the iPad, only 2% have one and 88% aren't interested. Their plans for use -- if they had one, which they don't -- are typical as asked: they would browse the web, read news, share photos.

Still reading after all these years. The newspaper print industry is not dead -- 66% are using a combination of print and online to get their news. Meanwhile, a staggering 55% of Hispanics surveyed don't use the Internet at all -- and half use neither online or print for news.

The unasked questions. Questions for this survey were constrained by the iPad demo menus. One wonders, naturally, what other unmet needs an iPad or even (crazy!) an Internet connection through a laptop or desktop might fulfill--  for example, browsing a job-related website? Looking for an online reskilling or lifelong learning course? Are social networking connections used to link to others who share similar chronic conditions? Meanwhile, according to this survey, bloggers like me can just plain give it up -- only 1% of the overall survey read them. But 9% of Hispanics do. Huh? Check that number -- seems out of synch with usage.

Don't take this survey to the bank for a loan. After 9 years at Forrester Research, where I drank the Kool-Aid on surveys and their trend significance, in my post-Forrester period I find myself becoming skeptical, especially on how questions are worded and what to do with the results. Given this survey, should laptop vendors market to boomers, given all those desktops? Should you open a tech store in an all-Boomer neighborhood, give teenage sales reps the title of Rocket Scientists and do some training? Should Apple really give up on boomers -- oops, wish we'd asked if they had an iPhone or Mac.  Is this a fabulous opportunity for BlackBerry? And should newspapers breath a sigh of reprieve -- for a while at least -- boomers still love paper. I'd say wait for another survey or (for now) rely on Pew's Internet, Cell Phone, and Broadband Statistics.



Baby boomer studies like AARP's fail to properly segment boomers enough; hence, most of their conclusions are erroneous.

Multi-dimensional scaling tools would be more productive..along with older/middle/younger segmentation.


I agree. When it comes to boomers and the internet - or my field, travel - all boomers are not equal. There are young boomers and old boomers. Boomers afterall created the Internet. It think it is primarily the only the oldest segment of boomers that have trouble.

AARP has launched an online community initiative which is already populating and percolating with the voice of bloggers, including blog posts from this site.  



I agree Laurie... I seem to think the numbers are a bit off. Although children and grand children of boomers (and older) are the key techy resources in most families, the boomers (and older) are very much accessing/using the internet through laptops, ipod touches and smartphones. A client of mine (who is 90+) loves her laptop so she can watch webcams of places she has been but no longer travels too. Her favorite... people watching on the New York Times Square webcam.


As a boomer myself, and involved with products for boomers and seniors I think part of the problem is basically that many seniors and boomers just don't see a need. It took awhile to see a need for the microwave, when everyone thought what was wrong with using pots and pans - it gradually caught on. Many Seniors are used to a simpler life style and just don't see the need for high-tech gadgetry. To put it bluntly, they just aren't interested - they like what is familiar to them.

The group I am surprised in is the boomers. This generation was so into new things, the 60s with its upheavals - yet many of the older boomers seem to be content to not moving along with technology. Some don't even have long distance on their home phones, and don't have cell phones - it seems like such a contradiction to what they were in their youth. Maybe they are content with life as it is. Some think the newer technologies are just too hard to understand, why bother.

As for the younger generations keeping in touch with grandparents via the internet - I'm not so sure about that. The folks in their 30s are busy getting their careers and families started. They spend their extra time connecting with people their own age.

It is important that boomers especially stay up with the new technologies - even if they don't use it, they should know what iPads, Blackberries, MP3 players, etc are. They lose connectivity with the younger members of their families when they don't know what is going on. They become out of touch, out of date. Many just ask their children to make reservations for them (to save money)over the internet. Quite frankly there is a lot to learn about the internet. Do you really want grandma using the internet to make bank or stock transactions etc if they don't know anything about Security on the internet - understanding the importance of strong passwords, phishing, keystroke hacking, viruses, trojans and more? If boomers and seniors are going to move up in technology there is a great deal to learn. The question is - do they care enough to want to. There should be more targeted polling done among boomers and seniors to find out not WHAT they use, but WHY DON'T they use the new technology.


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