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Survey: Wired seniors few but fervent

By Richard Stenger
CNN Science and Technology

(CNN) -- While fewer seniors go online compared to the younger Net set, those who do click away with considerable gusto, in particular to reach out to family, according to a new survey.

The national poll found that 15 percent of people 65 and older use the Internet, compared to 56 percent for the entire population.

But what older Americans lacked in numbers they made up for in enthusiasm. Between 64 and 69 percent of wired seniors go online on a typical day. Only 56 percent of all Internet users do so during the same time period.

Seniors have good reason to log on.

"A prime reason to online is to connect with the children and grandchildren, not with their friends," read the report, released Sunday, from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Family ties connect older mouse clickers in other ways as well.

"Of the 84 percent of wired seniors who say they first got Internet access for reasons unrelated to work or school, 48 percent say they were encouraged to do so by family members, a higher percentage than any other age group," wrote Pew researcher Susannah Fox and colleagues.

About three in five wired seniors said the Web improved their relations with their family, according to the survey, which polled 26,000 adults between March and December 2000.

Regularly check e-mail

Online seniors are more educated, more likely to be married and boast higher retirement incomes than their peers who are not Internet enthusiasts.

Slightly more than half of the geriatric Net setters go online to browse for fun, find out information about hobbies, read the news, and search for medical and health information.

Wired seniors are more likely to send e-mail on a typical day than all Internet users. Some 53 percent check e-mail each day, compared to 48 percent for all groups.

Older males use the Internet much more than older females, 60 percent versus 40 percent, despite the fact that senior women outnumber senior men 141 to 100.

Members of the next oldest demographic group, those aged 50 to 64, are more than three times more likely to have Internet access.

The survey, which included 4,300 people aged 65 and older, 670 of them Internet users, has a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage point, according to Pew.

• Pew Internet and American Life Project

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