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boomer tech habits, decoded

boomers are digitally-savvy consumers

It's easy to make your 50- or 60-something parents the butt of your jokes when it comes to technology. Our society is rife with anecdotes of overzealous email forwarding, the cringeworthy "reply all," and, of course, the sharing of indignant online petitions. These incidents may only reflect how a small minority of Boomers handle technology, but they have come to define the entire generation. But if you're looking down your nose at the ways they're adapting to new technologies, you're missing the point: gawky or not, they still have and use all of the devices and platforms you do—maybe even more.

In fact, Boomers helped create some of those very technologies. Consider the names Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, and the late Steve Jobs. Sure, those are standouts. But they're also reminders that we're not talking about a generation of technophobes. If you're a Millennial who grew up with a computer, it's because your parents—likely Boomers—saw value in technology.

The stats speak for themselves: eight out of ten Boomers are online, and they spend as much time online as those in the 18 to 49 age group. According to AARP research, those 55 and up comprise the fastest growing age group on Facebook, having rocketed up 80 percent in the last three years. Compare that with teens (13 to 17), whose use has declined by about 25 percent.

While those in the younger age groups tend to wander online, Boomers are intentional. They're looking for solutions or are aiming to buy something. In fact, according to research by Forrester, you can expect people 50 and older to spend around $400 online every three months. One out of every two Boomers buys new tech products every year, investing in e-readers, computers, smart phones, smart watches, wearable tech, and more. Boomers are the ones with the expendable income, and that means they're ready and willing to upgrade their toys and treat themselves when the right device comes along.

Spending by men and women ages 50 and up accounts for a whopping 50 percent of consumer expenditures, nationwide. And yet, marketers—who have had a love affair with this generation its entire life—have begun turning their heads, equating age with invisibility. In doing so, they are ignoring the wealthiest generation in history.

Today, marketers who get it are starting to realize the potential in reaching out to the 50 and up market. The especially savvy marketers will consider meeting Boomers where they spend much of their free time—online.