A new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project - a highly respected group with no self-interest in what it reports - gives us a breakdown of different generations and their Internet usage. All of the generations listed below are Internet users. The percentages are the total percentage of Internet users that are in that age group weighted for the percentage of the population they comprise.
Generation Y - The Millenials (18-32 year-olds) 30% use the Internet
Generation X - (33-44) - 23%
Young Boomers (45-54) - 22%
Older Boomers (55-63) - 13%
Silent Generation (64-72) - 7%
GI Generation (73 plus) - 4%
The study notes that the biggest increase in users comes from the 73 plus age group - as 45% of them are now online a big jump from the last study.
How the Internet is used doesn't hold many surprises for marketers but it is helpful.
Teens & Gen Y - Use the Internet primarily for entertainment (videos, music, blogs - theirs and friends, personal social networks, and keeping track of friends)
Older Generations - Use the Internet primarily for shopping, research and banking. An interesting stat - 80% of Gen X shops online.
Gen X and Young Boomers - The fastest growing group on Facebook is 40-plus - not in the study but very valuable information. My Facebook page lately is flooded with people I knew in high school and family members in that age bracket.
For more information on the study go to http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Generations_2009.pdf