Silver surfers dominate UK web use

Silver surfer

Silver surfers - web users aged 50 and over - now account for more than half of the 1.9 million new users who have accessed the internet for the first time in the past 12 months, research from the UK Online Measurement Company (UKOM) has revealed.

The overall number of internet users in the UK grew from 36.9 million in May 2009 to 38.8 million a year later, according to the UKOM, with over-50s constituting the largest single demographic group among new web users.

A total of 722,000 men over the age of 50 went online for the first time in the past 12 months making up 38 per cent of all new internet users followed by female over-50s, who accounted for 284,000 or 15 per cent of web newcomers. Together, over-50s now make up 31 per cent of the UK's entire web-enabled population.

Behind the over-50s, the biggest growth in numbers came in the women's 21-34 demographic, with 14 per cent of new users, and girls between 12 and 20 (12 per cent).

"There is a still a perception that the net is youth-centric but this is clearly not the reality," Nielsen analyst Alex Burmaster told the BBC on behalf of the UKOM. "The fact that one in four Britons who use the internet today are 50 to 64 years old proves it is no longer the sole preserve of the young and technical 'literati'."

Health check website RealAge is a regular destination for 89 per cent of this new generation of older surfers, followed by video-hosting website Flixxy (80 per cent) and community site Saga (78 per cent).

"This age group have a wide appetite when it comes to the types of sites they are using to supplement the interests and needs they have in the daily lives," Burmaster added.

"Consequently, a number of brands across a range of industries, particularly travel, are showing the rest what a valuable medium online is when it comes to reaching a desired audience who haven't grown up with the internet."