While Internet users of all ages are flocking to Facebook and other online communities, the percentage of U.S. adults ages 50 and older nearly doubled from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010, the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project reported Friday. During the same timeframe, the percentage of adults from 18 to 29 years old using social media rose from 76% to 86%, which translates into a 13% increase in terms of actual number.
"Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users," Mary Madden, senior researcher and author of the report, said in a statement.
In breaking down the numbers, the increased use of social networks was the trend even among the oldest Americans. For people ages 65 and older, the number rose by 100%, while the number of adults from 50 to 64 increased 88%. In terms of percentages for the whole demographic, 26% of people ages 65 and older were using social media at the end of May and 47% of people ages 50 to 64.
Email remained the primary way older Americans stayed in touch with others, but one in five online adults from 50 to 64 said they use social media on a typical day, up from 10% a year ago, Pew found. For adults 65 and older, the percentage was 13%, compared with 4% in 2009.
The trend, particularly among people 50 to 64, is also holding true for sites like Twitter, which Pew defines as "status update services." For people 50 years and older, one in 10 say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others.
Interestingly, an earlier survey by Pew found the youngest adults more savvy in protecting personal information than older adults. Released in May, the survey found 44% of U.S. Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 took steps to limit the amount of personal information available about them online, compared to 33% of people between the ages of 30 and 49, 25% from 50 to 64, and 20% age 65 and older.