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Social Networking Sites Aimed at Seniors Growing in Number

A growing number of social-networking websites are being developed for people over the age of 50. The Internet monitoring company Hitwise says 14 percent of adult Internet users are older than 55.  And it predicts seniors in Britain will overtake 35 to 44 year olds as the age group with the largest representation online. There's a boom in networking sites targeting older people interested in keeping in touch with friends and chatting about subjects such as diet and health care. Steve Mort reports from Orlando, Florida for VOA.

The executives at GrowingBolder.com meet to discuss how their new website for so-called "silver surfers" will look.

Marc Middleton is the founder of this new Internet site.  He says it will be a social-networking service, similar to youth-oriented sites like MySpace and Facebook, but with content relevant to older users.

He claims, on average, people over 50 spend more time online than any other demographic group, but so far have been ignored by online entrepreneurs.

"The U.S. is such a youth worshipping culture and I think Hollywood is to blame for that more than anything else. And there's just a dramatic, revolutionary change underway right now. It's no longer people fighting aging.  It's embracing aging."

Online marketing trade publisher, iMedia Connection, says more than 43 million people aged 50 or older used the Internet in 2005 -- up 21 percent from the previous year.

GrowingBolder's founders say those users generally have more money to spend and show more loyalty to certain websites.  They say less-mobile seniors often use the Internet to keep in touch.

The company's executive vice president is Bill Shafer. "Think of what it can do for seniors. Think of how it can take people who are not feeling relevant anymore, that feel that they've lost their voice in society, and it gives them their voice back. It makes them relevant".

It also makes them relevant to advertisers.

For example, drug companies -- which now market many medications to older people -- are spending more online.  The pharmaceutical publication, Pharmalive, says more than 30 percent of the marketing budgets of such firms is dedicated to social networking.

GrowingBolder describes itself more like a TV station than a website, offering video stories and interviews with celebrities over 50.

But the number of so-called "graying Internet" sites is growing. Boomertown, Multiply, ReZoom and others are all looking for a share of the expanding seniors market.

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