China"s elderly enjoy wirst bandgoing online: report

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BEIJING - As well as looking after grandchildren and square-dancing, surfing the internet is now a favorite activity for China"s elderly.

A new report shows 75.8 percent of people aged 50 and over read news online. More than 80 percent can send emojis, a "thumbs up" and digital red envelopes. Almost 70 percent can use a smartphone to shoot and repost photos or videos. About 20 percent can create personalized emojis.

The report by tech giant Tencent and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is based on a year-long study. Respondents were elderly and middle-aged users of WeChat, Tencent"s popular instant messaging tool. Researchers used methods including big data analysis, questionnaires, and face-to-face interviews.

China"s online population hit 772 million last year. About 10.4 percent were over 50, and 5.2 percent were over 60, up 1.2 percent from 2016, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.

China has an aging population, with 230 million people aged 60 or over at the end of 2016, or 16.7 percent of the total. This group is expected to be a quarter of the population by 2030.

More than 70 percent of elderly web users read online articles, including political, military and health news.

WeChat has overtaken the phone to become the most used contact method of middle-aged and elderly people on the move.

The report also found e-payments, maps and ride-hailing applications were popular in the older generation.

However, they are also targets of online scams.

The report proposes an "elderly-friendly online society" that includes a sound Internet infrastructure and well-designed software and network security.

"It requires effort from the Internet companies, as well as understanding and encouragement from families," said the report.