Older Americans Turn to Their Children for Computer Support; Online Communication Making Positive Difference In Families

Receiving a call for help from an older family member can often create anxiety, but not if it’s a call for computer help according to a new AARP survey, Generations Online, released today. Over half of the respondents whose parent have a computer are the first person their relative turns to for help.

Having an older relative online has made a positive difference in the lives of 80 percent of those survey respondents who are contacted for help by their parents.

The survey was conducted to learn to what extent adult children provide technical computer support to their parents, and how computers are supporting intergenerational relationships. WirthlinWorldwide conducted the online survey with 534 respondents ages 25-44 who reported having a parent or older relative that frequently uses a computer and contacts the younger adults for help.

It found that families are using computers to keep in touch with each other. Nearly all respondents and their parents use a computer to contact each other (97%), most frequently via email (96%).

“Families who live geographically close to each other are nearly as likely to use email as those who live far apart (94% vs. 99%). Those who live far apart cite long-distance phone savings, while those who live close together cite the fact that it makes it easy to dash off a quick email to let their family member know they are thinking of them,” said Christine Donohoo, Associate Executive Director of Membership.

“Not only do computers and the Internet help families keep in touch,” added Donohoo. “It can enhance older Americans’ quality of life.”

Additional findings from the survey:

– Nearly nine-out-of-ten (87%) respondents aid their parents in finding information on the Internet

– 43% of the respondent’s parents age 50 and older use instant messaging to keep in touch with their children

– 78% of respondents have taught older adults computer use; 74% how to use email; 64% have helped set up a computer

– Older grandchildren (52% of respondents with kids ages 18-24 and 48% of respondents with kids ages 11-17) help their grandparents with the computer of the Internet

To provide an online resource for all generations, AARP created AARP Computers and Technology (www.aarp.org/computers), an information-rich, easy-to-use Web site. “Helping older adults become more comfortable with computers and the Internet is the main reason we developed this area,” said Mark Carpenter, Director of Web Strategy & Operations. “AARP Computers and Technology features articles that include how-to guides and reviews and a monthly email newsletter with tips and latest news. However, perhaps the most valuable area of the site is our online discussion board, where our members share questions and solutions.”

In conjunction with the release of the survey findings, AARP today also announces the launch of a “Generations Online Sweepstakes,” to recognize the important bond between parents and their grown children and to encourage older Americans and their children to use the Internet for fun and sharing. Parents or their children can enter to win two new Dell computers — one for each generation — starting July 21st.

For more information or to enter the sweepstakes, parents and their children can visit AARP’s Computers and Technology section at www.aarp.org/computers.

Additional survey data and the final report can be found at www.aarp.org/press.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. We provide information and resources; engage in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assist members in serving their communities; and offer a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members. These include AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; Segunda Juventud, our quarterly newspaper in Spanish; NRTA Live and Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our Web site, www.aarp.org. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.