We’ve known for a while that Facebook users are getting a lot older, but now new data released by Nielsen reveals that the number of seniors (65 and older) using the web has increased by 6 million in the last five years. Not only that, but nearly half of online seniors visited Facebook or YouTube last month, making them their 3rd and 4th most visited online destinations.

The research confirmed a trend that we’ve seen in recent years: that more seniors are becoming active on the web. In November of 2004, there were 11.3 million active seniors online. In November 2009, that number jumped by 55% to 17.5 million. In addition, they spend more time on the web, totaling an average of 58 hours a month in front of the browser.

While those numbers didn’t surprise us, we were interested in data that Nielsen collected on their browsing habits. Take a look at these two tables. The first reveals the most common activities among active online seniors. The second shows the top ten websites and online destinations that this demographic visited last month:

 

 

 

 

A majority of online seniors check their email, print maps, play around with photos, and check the weather. All of these tasks seem utility-based, but then again, we expect that these numbers would be similar in almost any other demographic. Come on: who here hasn’t checked their email, mapped something out, or paid their bills online in the last 30 days?

The more interesting data comes from the top 10 online destinations table. While Google Search was an obvious winner, Windows Media Player is a bit of a surprise until you realize just how many websites embed the thing. However, the rise of Facebook (Facebook) to #3 on this list, when a year ago it was the #45 most visited website by seniors, is a huge sign of just how mainstream social networking has become. YouTube (YouTube) at #4 is another confirmation of this trend.

This is just what happens when new technologies become more accessible and more mainstream. Let us know what you think of these trends in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto (iStockphoto), flashgun

mashable.com

We are probably lagging behind in the seniors online stats compared to our American cousins, but my personal experience is that a lot of them are actively engaging through social media and looking for alternative possibilities to connect at home, once they loose their main connection to the Internet at work. Email is king, but Facebook comes very close, with Skype as the must of musts for expat families (webcam use on the rising!)