Monday, 29 October 2012

Cyber Retirement Communities – Are we Silver Surfers?

When I first started writing this book, nearly 13 years ago, the world was a simple place where words ruled over acronyms, twitter was the sound a bird made (or the behaviour of a twit) and computers were ugly grey blocks of plastic that responded obediently when prodded. Those days are gone...

As Bill Gates famously once said: 
“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.”

13 years ago I worked from the assumption (largely based on my own computer knowledge) that Baby Boomers were essentially clueless about technology and wrote a glossary of terms, including words like ‘email’, ‘floppy diskette’ (yes I wrote ‘diskette’) and ‘scanner’. 

The World Wide Web Consortium estimated that the total number of people using the internet back in December 1998 was a paltry 147 million (3.6 percent of the world’s population) compared with more than two billion people in March 2011.

Despite these statistics, a disproportionately low percentage of Baby Boomers are reaping the benefits. A survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project in 2009 found that although Baby Boomers have started embracing the online world, with 70% of adults aged between 50-64 logging on, this figure drops to 38% in over-65s. This is a serious issue that needs urgent attention, particularly when you consider Eurostat’s findings that 63% of the over-65s who did embrace the internet felt that it helped them to connect with family and friends. 

Some countries have a more progressive approach with the Home Computing Network in Japan opening more than 300 specialised schools where the average age of students exceeds 60!

The term Silver Surfers makes me imagine a group of twenty-somethings brainstorming ideas for a marketing campaign aimed at internet users in later-life, when somebody ends up shouting ‘Senile Surfer!’ Everybody laughs before deciding that they might have to tone it down a bit, eventually settling on the more patronising ‘Silver Surfer’ which, incidentally, sounds like a geriatric superhero. 

I’m not a ‘Silver Surfer’. I’m an internet user who doesn’t need a fanfare or a gold-star whenever I manage to turn a computer on!