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Marketers Missing Elderly Canadians Because Of Digital Divide

Older Canadians are less likely to engage in the 20 common Internet activities than their younger counterparts are, according to a new Ipsos Reid study.
Older Canadians are victims of the digital divide, according to a new study.

Ipsos Reid released a study on Thursday, "Older Canadians and the Internet," showing than only 61 percent of Canadians ages 55 and over have Internet access. That compares to 88 percent of adults from 18 to 64, according to the study.

"Some 'experts' would like us to believe that the Internet is a universal medium that can reach all Canadians whether it be for a marketing, communications, or social perspective, but our research shows that there are considerable flaws in this thinking, Steve Mossop, Ipsos president of Market Research Canada West, said in a prepared statement. "The Internet is by no means universal, and there are important gaps like the older Canadians segment that it simply cannot be ignored. The 'digital divide' was predicted to disappear -- but our research shows that while the gap is narrowing slightly, the divide is very real."

The study showed a 24 to 27 point difference between Canadians younger than 55 and their older counterparts in the last three years. That's down from a gap that ranged from 34 to 36 points from 2001 to 2003, according to Ipsos, which states that the difference is not significant enough to determine long-term implications.

According to the study, older Canadians are less likely to engage in the 20 common Internet activities than their younger counterparts are. Those activities include listening to the radio, downloading MP3 files, visiting blogs, banking, researching courses and schools, comparison shopping, searching for property, researching travel, surfing the Web at work for personal reasons and making purchases. However, the study found Canadians in their golden years are more likely to take online courses, buy or sell investments over the Web and earn a degree or diploma online.

"This large gap in access combined with older Canadians' lack of experience and skill and what appears to be an inherent distrust of online security begs whether online marketers are truly reaching this audience with their current campaigns and efforts," Mossop said. "Further, it indicates that new and unique strategies may need to be developed to reach what is a rather lucrative and rapidly growing spending group in Canadian society."

About 18 months ago, Jupiter Research reported that the elderly in America were among the fastest-growing group to connect to the Internet.