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The number of people aged 65 and over accessing the internet has risen by more than a quarter in the past year.

One major reason for this is an increase in the use of tablet computers by older people aged 65-74. In just one year, the number of older people using tablets has increased from 5% in 2012 to 17% in 2013.

These findings come from the latest Ofcom Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report 2014 in which 2,674 adults aged 16 and above were surveyed.

As the internet becomes a more accessible place thanks to easier to use and faster connecting devices coupled with an increased awareness and education, the online population of people over the age of 65 has increased. 

The proportion of people aged over 65 that are accessing the internet reached 42% in 2013, a 9% rise from 33% in 2012. This has helped to drive overall internet use up from 79% of all adults in 2012 to 83% in 2013.

The majority of services that people from every age group need to use are now as easy to access online as they were offline. The convenience of efficient and easily accessible online services is hugely valuable in improving the quality of life for those that may struggle to access them on the high street.

98% of adults now go online

It’s been a huge year for increasing the online population of adults. Nearly every adult under 35 years old now regularly accesses the internet.

The increase in internet use is driven by three different age groups:

  • 25-34: 98% (up from 92% in 2012)
  • 45-54: 91% (up from 84% in 2012)
  • 65+: 42% (up from 33% in 2012)

However older people spend significantly less time online than younger people (16-24 year olds), who on average spend more than a whole day (24 hours 12 minutes) each week online. This compares to an average nine hours and 12 minutes online per week among adults over 65.

The 65+ age group are also significantly less likely than other age groups to do a range of online activities. The majority of adult internet users undertake nine online activities every three months ranging from banking, streaming or downloading films & television and visiting social media sites.

The majority of over 65s use the internet to just carry out two activities. Browse websites (77%) and use email (77%).

Social media

Only 30% of over 65s regularly access social media, compared to 68% of other adult users. It seems that younger people feel more secure on social media channels than older people. 

Users aged between 16-24 appear more informed than all adult users about protecting personal information on social media and have adjusted their Facebook settings accordingly. 76% of 16-24 year olds have adjusted their privacy settings compared to 65% of all other Facebook users. 

Younger social media users are also more likely to have blocked friends or followers and deleted photos than older users. Perhaps this says more about younger users learning that their social presence can easily be viewed by potential employers and are therefore quick to act on potentially compromising images. Perhaps younger users are also more acutely aware of how an online presence can define oneself to a group of peers.

Although younger users are more savvy about privacy, conversely they are more likely to be happy to  provide personal information online to companies. 55% compared to 42% of all internet users. The caveat here is that they’re happy to do this as long as they get what they want in return.

What would you miss the most?

It always seems a bizarre hypothetical question to ask. In reality what twisted authority figure is going to forcibly remove either your smartphone or your television, but then allowing it to be your own decision which is taken. Nonetheless, Ofcom asked, which piece of technology various age groups would miss the most.

TV continues to be the media that adults say they would miss most (42%) if it was taken away. Young people aged 16-24 are more than three times more likely to choose their smartphone (47%) over TV (13%), while people over 65 say they would most miss watching TV (68%).

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 30 April, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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