Well, if you're reading this, you are definitely online. But many elders are not.
The annual Pew survey of internet usage always grabs me and because this blog is Time Goes By what it's really like to get old, I pay closest attention, of course, to the age demographics.
Here is what the growth look like from June 1995 through August 2011: (If this is too small to read, visit the website for larger versions of all the graphs I have reproduced here.)
[UPDATE NOTE: A reader advises that this graph does not agree with the numbers I discuss below. This graph refers to ALL internet users; what I discuss below are ELDER internet users.]
In the 65 and older group, in the year 2000, just 12 percent used the internet. In 2011 (when this newest survey was conducted), that number had more than tripled to 41 percent.
That is compared to 41 percent of people age 50 to 64 in 2000, which is up to 74 percent today.
Usage for the oldest people has grown less than at first glance because some percentage of the year 2000 50-64 user group has aged into the 65-plus cohort.
As I have frequently written here over the years, I want to see as many old people as possible online because I believe the internet is a godsend for our well-being.
When we retire, there is less opportunity for day-to-day camaraderie we had in the workplace. Old friends die or move away. The kids often live a plane flight or two away.
At the same time, we may need to stop driving, limiting our mobility. Sometimes we can't get around on foot as easily as we once did either. All these things conspire to shrink our social lives – a well-known indicator of depression which can lead to physical illness and early death.
The internet can change that and particularly, I believe, blogging an whether as a writer or as a reader who contributes in the comments. Many friendships are made on blogs (and other online gathering places) and sometimes we even get to meet in person.
Twenty-two percent of Americans age 18 and older – nearly one in four adults - does not use the internet. Here is a graph of the reasons respondents gave:
Four percent say they are “too old to learn” and as much as I don't like it, I know there are elders who will never even try. But the number three reason to not be online is that it is too expensive and that is surely so.
A shocking statistic from this survey is that while 60 percent of people 50 to 64 years old are using broadband to access the web, only 30 percent of 65-plus internet users have broadband.
They can't all be in rural areas where speedy connections are often unavailable at any price. Many simply cannot afford a service that averages about $47.00 a month. According to the Federal Communications Commission survey from 2010:
”About 36 percent of the 28 million adults who said they don't subscribe to broadband at home said that the monthly fee for broadband is too expensive, they can't afford a computer, or the installation fee is too high.”
Although medical appointments via the internet are still a long way from being common, the numbers are increasing – a development that can save time and money of both the physician and patent. But a huge barrier to adoption by elders will be the high price of a necessary broadband connection.
Go see the rest of the survey. There are some other interesting results including the usage of smartphones – not much in the elder age group.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: Push My Buttons Please