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SeniorNet, Schwab eye older users

Findings suggest that over 50-year-olds are an increasing Net audience, and the duo are eyeing what they see as an untapped niche.

SeniorNet and prominent online brokerage Charles Schwab have partnered to provide investment services for older Net surfers.

Based on findings which suggest that over 50-year-olds are an increasing Net audience, the firms are eyeing what they see as an untapped niche, hoping to provide retirement investment and other financial services. SeniorNet and Schwab commissioned a study that found a steady rise in older Net users, contradicting beliefs that seniors are being left behind.

"Everything points to a powerful wave of interest in technology and the access and control it provides to people who were never seen as apart of the computer generation," Ann Wrixon, a SeniorNet spokesperson said.

According to the study, home computer ownership and Internet access have increased in older users. Some 40 percent of those over 50 currently have home PCs, compared with 29 percent of those over 55 who had computers in November 1995.

Additionally, 70 percent of older Americans who have home computers currently have access to the Internet, in contrast to the 20 percent who had access three years prior.

It should be noted that the study tracked users over 55 in the earlier November 1995 research and compared them to users over 50 for the recent findings, potentially skewing data.

Online services directed at older Netizens have already attracted some heavyweight players, as Microsoft this month launched Seniors and Technology with offerings similar to SeniorNet. Offering brokerage service powered by E*Trade, Third Age last year began tapping much the same audience, drawing on findings that seniors have more time to spend online.

SeniorNet, Seniors and Technology, and ThirdAge all provide computer literacy and Internet tips for older users as part of their services.

The site's launch date and financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.