Retirees Fastest-Growing Users of Social Networks

Facebook and LinkedIn catch on among those age 65 and older.

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Retirees age 65 and older are the fastest-growing group of social networking site users like Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. And for the first time this year, more than half of baby boomers use social networking sites.

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Social networking site use among Internet users age 65 and older has grown 150 percent over the past two years, from 13 percent in April 2009 to 33 percent in May 2011, the survey of 2,277 adult Internet users ages 18 and older conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International found. The proportion of baby boomers ages 50 to 64 using social networking sites doubled over the same time period from 25 percent to 51 percent.

The rate of young people joining social networking sites has grown more slowly in recent years because most young people are already members. The proportion of 20-somethings networking online grew from 76 percent in April 2009 to 83 percent in May 2011. Young people between ages 18 and 29 had their big surge in usage of social networking sites 5 years ago when membership jumped from 9 percent in February 2005 to 49 percent in August 2006.

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However, most older Internet users have not yet made logging in to social networking sites a part of their daily routine. While 61 percent of 20-somethings check for status updates on a typical day, only about a third (32 percent) of baby boomers and 15 percent of seniors reported logging in yesterday. But the proportion of older people who read their newsfeed each day is growing. In 2009, only 10 percent of baby boomers and 4 percent of seniors logged in daily.

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The survey found no significant difference in social networking site usage based on household income, education level, race, or geographic location. In addition to the differences based on age, the study also found that women (69 percent) were more likely to use social networking sites than men (60 percent). Women are also more active users of these sites, with almost half (48 percent) of female Internet users logging in on a typical day, compared with 38 percent of males.

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