Engaging the Aging

How Online Outreach to Seniors Has Changed

The online landscape has changed so significantly in the last 5 years that we have had to drastically readjust how we engage seniors through the internet. Historically this 65+ demographic has been the hardest to engage, but recently they are becoming one of the most accessible groups online.

Where were seniors engaging before the internet?

Traditionally, a high percentage of workshop turnout has been senior-based. Seniors generally have more time on their hands as well as a fairly strong commitment to their communities, and so make an effort to attend.

Seniors also understand planning from a historical perspective. They know how much has and can change because they have lived through these changes and understand firsthand how they affect communities. This generally makes them more motivated to get involved.

How has their online behavior changed?

There are some striking statistics about the growth of internet usage by older adults. Seniors represent the fastest growing segment of users in many internet categories. According to Pew Research, 59% of adults aged 65+ currently use the internet. Additionally, once seniors are online, 71% go online every day and 82% go online at least weekly. The percentage of “Silver Surfers” aged 65 and above was only 14% in the year 2000, showing a rapid increase over the past decade and a half.

Why are they migrating online?

The top 3 motivations for going online are: Communicating with friends and family, online shopping and getting health information. With straightforward, easy to view and visually engaging online retail shop fronts ‘eshopping’ is becoming more and more a realm for the senior demographic.

Other incentives for internet use include picture sharing (many seniors own and take family photos with a digital camera) and reading the news (ease and availability of mainstream news articles online are driving this growth) This growth will only continue as online savvy boomers begin to reach senior age.

Recently we had some feedback from a client who was conducting an online survey for a city bike plan (a topic that you may not expect seniors to be overly concerned about). The client had some questions on the response of seniors on the survey. I was preparing to give advice on how to better and more effectively engage seniors when they mentioned the issue was actually an OVER representation of this demographic. This blew me away.

Not long after I had a chance to observe my own families online habits. During a recent reunion I noticed the youngest (kids and teens) using primarily mobile devices, the middle-aged surfing on their laptops and desktops and the seniors checking the news on their iPads. New technologies like tablets, offering intuitive interfaces and ease of use, have been a game changer for seniors.

So when considering your next online engagement or marketing campaign it will certainly be prudent to account for the very important “Silver Surfers”. Give this audience a great and meaningful online experience!

By | 2017-01-25T20:49:32+00:00 February 17th, 2015|Engagement|0 Comments

About the Author:

Dave is the Chief Engagement Officer of MetroQuest and an internationally-recognized author and public engagement strategist focusing on the use of software tools to enhance community participation for planning projects.

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