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Content Queens Investigate: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Author: Amanda Hosking

The internet has become a large part of our lives, with many individuals browsing the web daily on mobiles, tablets, and desktops. It provides a wealth of information, all accessible at our fingertips. We can read the news, find out facts/statistics, purchase items, educate ourselves, check our bank balance, watch videos, and listen to music, to name a but a few.

With the internet only increasing in popularity, we are interested to see if this means older adults are starting to use the web more. Naturally, as younger adults have been brought up with the internet they use it more than the older generation. However, it seems that older adults are now starting to become internet savvy, according to research from ‘The Office for National Statistics’. 

internet usage table                                                                                                                     Source: Office for National Statistics

The survey, which began in 2011, investigated the level of internet users in the UK across different demographics such as age and gender. One finding of the survey was that internet usage has increased in the over 65’s.

The survey revealed that in 2011 19.9% of people over 75 were current internet browsers. This increased to 38.7% in 2016, showing a significant increase in internet usage and indicating more older adults are becoming interested in the web. In addition, current web use in the age group 65-74 has also increased from 52% in 2011 to 74.1% in 2016.

These figures suggest that older adults are becoming aware of the internet and want to give it a go. They may find that it is very useful for them (sending emails, using skype to talk to family, ordering products to be home delivered etc.) and so may be more optimistic about it. Family members could also introduce them to it and show them the ropes.

A great example is June (76) and Leon (79) from Gogglebox who are often seen on their iPads and iPhones!

june and leon gogglebox                                                                                                                                      Source: Daily Mail

Despite increases the elderly still use the internet a lot less than younger age groups. In 2016 98.8% of 16-44 year olds were current internet browsers. This shows that the majority of young people consistently use the internet. This implies that there are more things to be done to attract older adults to make use of the internet.

Digital Marketing and Older Adults

As this survey reveals, internet usage in older adults is on the rise. This means that companies should think about making their websites more accessible and usable for the over 65’s. This could be beneficial for both parties; helping older adults navigate websites and leading to increased browsing and sales for brands.  

Don’t forget older adults will often have more disposable income than the millennials you are targeting!

As people get older their sight, hearing and cognitive functions may change meaning they may find it more difficult to navigate the internet. So, how can you make your website more accessible? Here are some tips:

• Have clear page headings
• Have easy to navigate, bold menus
• Put important information at the top of the page
• Keep the design basic with a mixture of images and text - avoid text overload
• Make text a large size and clear colour
• Produce short snappy sections – avoid large blocks of text

If your website is easily accessible, older adults will be more inclined to browse the website and stay on it longer – which could lead to sales.

elderly man using tablet

How to Target an Older Audience

The next step is to ensure your brand targets the older market and will be appealing to them. You may want to think about how your products relate to older adults, and how you can target them online.

Some suggestions are:

• Produce relevant content on your site (following the tips above)
o E.g. blog on best skincare products for the over 50s
• Online and TV ads catered to older adults, not just millennials
o E.g. clothing ad that shows a range of ages modelling clothes
• Bright, clear emails with offers and discounts to encourage use of website
o E.g. over 65’s day special discount code
• Posts on social media
o E.g. Mixed posts aimed at a range of ages
• PPC campaigns
o E.g. Think about search terms older adults will use and their most popular browsing times to make the campaign a success

Examples from Well Known Brands

Flora ProActiv: Website Design

This is a good example of a website that is designed for older adults. The site consists of a clear, simple web design with a wealth of information for older adults on cholesterol. The site pages provide advice and success stories for users to browse through. Bright imagery and clear, large text make this appealing for older adults.

L’Oréal: Golden Age Campaign

This year L’Oréal has launched it’s ‘Golden Age Campaign’ which aims to interact with clients over the age of 50. Beauty products are often targeted at young people, this neglects the older market who are interested and want to spend their money on beauty items.

L’Oréal are changing this with their new campaign which features a TV advert featuring famous actress Helen Mirren. She is also on the main banner on their homepage alongside the brands ‘Age Perfect’ skincare range, that Mirren is promoting. The advert and webpage is fun, bright and refreshing. This is a great portrayal of how to make your brand appeal to all ages.

 Barclays: Digital Eagles

The ‘Digital Eagles’ campaign from Barclays aims to encourage older adults to use online banking services and get to grips with computers. They have identified that older adults are nervous about using online banking and worry about security. Therefore, Barclays have created face to face sessions and online advice that can help them with this.

They have produced a TV ad to promote their services and their website provides a clear- cut overview of what is on offer. This includes ‘tea and teach sessions’ around the UK and online courses. Free guides are also available in larger text, audio, and braille.

This is a brilliant example of how a brand can expand their marketing to older adults and encourage them to use their services in an innovative way.



Silver Surfers on the Up

It is clear that the silver surfer is on the rise, ready to browse the internet and find content and products that are relevant to them. This means brands need to re-evaluate and incorporate marketing strategies that target an older audience. This could lead to increased brand following and sales, and make the browsing experience easier for older adults. It’s a win win situation!


Office for National Statistics

National Institute of Aging