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Do people of different generations use the internet differently?

Saga has launched a social networking site for the over-50s, called Saga Zone, but will many older people make full use of it? Here you can see a short video on the public's views about how age affects people's use of the internet and what the over-50s, in particular, use it for.

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The Department for Work and Pensions has also unveiled a social networking website to encourage direct communication with the government and debate among older people about the issues that matter to them.

Saga Zone launched last week after a four-month trial. It allows users to create personal profiles and make contact with other members just as on other social networking sites. The site already has 13,000 registered users, the oldest of whom is 87.

Saga Zone includes forums on subjects including gardening, health, money and relationship advice as well as blogs by writers over 50 who share their lives and interests online. Linda Franklin writes a dating blog, keen gardener Terry Walton writes 'Allotment Sagas' and Lucy Irvine's 'Balkan Castaway' describes her new life in Bulgaria.

Andrew Goodsell, group chief executive of Saga, said: "The internet is a place where the over-50s are thriving. Saga Zone is a place where they can mingle and chat about issues important to them, be they amusing or serious."

Saga Zone is not alone in the social networking market for older people. In the US the site Eons launched last year with a focus on the baby boomer generation. Yet despite raising £16m from investors Eons has struggled and had to lay off a third of its staff last month, according to reports.

Nick Burcher, board member at Zed Media, said Saga's entry into the UK social networking arena was an effective way of connecting with its audience, which was increasingly willing to interact and form communities online, as evidenced by the popularity of Friends Reunited with older users. Burcher said: "Over the last year there have been a number of moves into this area to tap into the older market online. Saga Zone is part of the company’s overall engagement and interaction with its customers, rather than a standalone social networking site for over 50s."

Burcher said that it was unlikely that older users of social network sites would devote the amount of time typical among younger users: "We are not seeing massive usage in these demographics in social networking. However, older users tend to be more loyal and less likely to jump on the next bandwagon, so they are more likely to be sticky and develop loyalty to one site over time.

"Social networking has been dominated by youth-oriented sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Bebo. MySpace is almost deliberately designed to alienate older users and preserve its exclusively young user base."


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