Change is in the air! The percentage of Americans age 65 and older who use the Internet is growing rapidly. A recent Pew research survey found that over 50% of older Americans are surfing the web, participating in social networking or using e-mail.

In 2000, only 13% of older Americans were online significantly increasing to just over one-third using the Internet in 2008.  

Devices, devices, devices

Regardless of their greater interest in the web, retirees are still behind the curve when it comes to technology. When you look at the gap in digital device ownership, you can see there is ample room for older Americans to begin accessing the Internet in new ways. The graph below shows device ownership based on age.


Cell phone ownership

  • 69% of those 65 and older
  • 87% of those 50-64 years old
  • 88% of Americans 18 and older

Desktop computer ownership

  • 48% of those 65 and older
  • 63% of those 50-64 years old
  • 58% of Americans 18 and older

Laptop computer ownership

  • 32% of those 65 and older
  • 57% of those 50-64 years old
  • 61% of Americans 18 and older 

E-reader ownership

  • 11% of those 65 and older
  • 16% of those 50-64 years old
  • 18% of Americans 18 and older

What’s In It for Me?

Experts say that adopting new technologies is strongly related to two factors: simplicity of use and incentives. People are most likely to adopt new technology when they understand the benefits. For example, social networking and online telephony are gaining popularity because they make it easy to stay in touch with friends and family. Video streaming makes it possible to access a favorite television show anytime, anywhere. E-books make it possible to carry a personal library in a purse or briefcase. They also make it possible to listen to a book instead of reading it, which is great for people with glaucoma.

If you would like to learn more about diverse types of technology and how to use various devices, visit your local library. Libraries often offer in-person technology training classes. Alternatively, you can visit or other web sites for helpful ‘how-to’ guides and technology articles.