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Older Web Surfers Are Finding A Vital New Life Online

The following posting comes from FAMNET and is on seniors. There are some excellent links at the end of the posting. Thanks to Suzanne Schwenger for finding and forwarding this item!

Older Web Surfers Are Finding A Vital New Life Online

by Elisabeth Holzer

While demographers and gerontologists battle to decide whether the sun belt or the big city is the best place to nest, many older Americans are finding that the Net is a place where they can find a friendly

home. Even the hipsters at HotWired have taken notice. Netizen Jon Katz wrote, "Invisible to the mainstream media and often written off by the rest of society, the elderly are pouring online to create one of the most powerful groups yet seen in this ostensibly youth-oriented medium."

It's true: Web users are older than you might think. Georgia Tech's Graphics, Visualization & Usability Center sees the age of the average (international) user increasing in each of its surveys; the latest

average age is 33. FIND/SVP has an average age of 36.5 for U.S. surfers. And look at the breakdown:

According to the Baruch College-Harris Poll (1997), 45 percent of those now surfing the Web are over 40. In fact, 19 percent of them are 50 and over.

Who are these people? Well, from what we have seen, they are hardly the stereotypical retirees sitting around baking cookies and waiting for their tee time. Take MargieLyn, who has written children's stories and would like to see them published, or KennyBoy, who wants to learn how to program Macs.

Full-bodied meeting places for this crowd are proliferating rapidly, from SeniorCom to SeniorNet, which both feature active chats and message boards as well as news, site reviews, and lots of articles and

advice on understanding and navigating legal, financial, and medical issues. Those looking primarily for chat can head for Sixty + and 65plus, whose members schedule real-time get-togethers.

The latest debut is, founded by Mary Furlong ( Last time we checked in with her, ("Seniors Got It Going On," Oct. '96), she had just left SeniorNet-which she also founded - and its AOL forum with 100,000-plus monthly visitors. Inspired by the times she spent hanging around her grandmother's porch as a steady stream of neighbors and friends dropped by and talked about their lives, she has created an environment that goes well beyond chat rooms-ThirdAge is a valuable exchange of thoughts and feelings of particular interest to mature Americans. "ThirdAge grew out of the technical and social experimentation of SeniorNet, but the focus and the sense of place is very different," she says. "ThirdAge is attracting younger users, and we're providing much more content and context for advice, experts, and information than SeniorNet ever did." She considers ThirdAge "a 'front porch' where we can meet and chat, share and connect."

On a recent Saturday night at the ThirdAge Caf