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Saga aiming to do a Bebo for silver surfers.

Saga, the insurance and holiday company for the over-50s, has launched a social networking Web site for silver surfers in a bid to emulate the huge popularity of MySpace, Bebo and Facebook.

Saga Zone aims to attract those aged over 50 to the burgeoning social networking sector currently dominated by younger users. It will enable users to create their own profiles, contact friends or join online groups and web forums.

The site has been running in trial mode for four months and has so far attracted 13,000 members. The oldest "zoner" to date is 87-year-old Thelma Hind, from Bangor in Northern Ireland.

"Social networking sites, like Saga Zone, can be a real lifeline for older people who can sometimes feel cut off and lonely," she said. Social activism has proved popular on the site so far, with petitions on prostate cancer, disability benefits and food allowances having so far been started.

Forums have been created on subjects ranging from junk food advertisements, cholesterol and weight loss to gardening tips and relationship advice. The site launch comes after a survey for Saga showed that the grey pound is helping to drive the online economy.

Almost three-quarters of 15,740 over-50s polled said they had bought flights online, almost 60 per cent had purchased event tickets and half had bought train tickets.

Books, electrical items, CDs and insurance policies were also popular online purchases.

Saga's site is not the first to attempt to cash in on the social networking craze among affluent older surfers.

Eons, an American site for baby boomers, was developed last year by the founder of job search engine but has not proved as popular as was hoped and was forced to lay off employees last month.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Nov 6, 2007
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