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The percentage of US seniors going online is growing rapidly, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. This rise in silver surfers mirrors a similar increase in the UK.

Twenty-two per cent of Americans aged 65 and over go online, Older Americans and the Internet reveals. This represents a 47 per cent increase on 2000, when only 15 per cent had Internet access.

Overall, about 8 million Americans aged 65 and over use the Internet. 58 per cent of Americans aged 50 to 64 go online, but this figure jumps to 75 per cent in the 30 to 49 age bracket and 77 per cent between 18 and 29.

"The 'silver tsunami' of older Internet users is gaining momentum," says Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet Project. "Internet users in their 50s who work, shop, and keep in touch with friends and family online will age into and transform the wired senior population."

Many of seniors' favourite online activities, from sending email to playing games, mirror the preferences of the general population, according to the report, which is based primarily on survey data collected between 3 February and 1 March 2004.

Older women are leading the charge and the gender ratio among "wired seniors" is now equal. The number of seniors who live in households with moderate incomes has risen greatly, as has the number whose education ended with a high school diploma. Bbut the online senior population is still dominated by white, upper-income household members, and those with college degrees.

"As younger Americans weave the Internet into nearly every aspect of their lives, their parents and grandparents are starting to follow suit, especially when it comes to email and information searches," says Susannah Fox, director of research at the Pew Internet & American Life Project and author of the report.

American trends mirror the United Kingdom experience. Last year, then communications watchdog Oftel revealed that the over 65s are now the fastest-growing group of Internet users in the UK. In 2002, the over-75s became the fastest growing part of that group.

the over-55 population is currently the fastest growing group online, Research analyst Datamonitor reported last year. "When looking for health information, seniors with Internet access are favoring online resources as the primary source of information," it said.

© ENN

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