Men and women are different — hardly news we know. But it seems that those differences carry through from the real world to the virtual one, according to a survey by Age Concern and Barclays Bank.

The study revealed that the ways in which men and women over the age of 55 use the internet are completely different. It found that 78 percent of men use the net to pursue hobbies and unearth information, while 86 percent of women see the web as a way to keep in touch with friends and family. In fact email is fast catching up with the phone as the preferred method of communication.

But one thing both sexes agreed upon was that once you start surfing, you just can't stop. Two thirds of computer users in the 55+ age group said that using technology had a positive effect on their lives. This reflects earlier findings which showed that so-called silver surfers would rather throw out their TVs than their PCs.

While this might be good news for older users who are tech-savvy, there are still plenty of people in this age group who have never tried using the internet. The survey is part of the Web Aware project, backed by Age Concern and Barclays, which is designed to encourage more older users online.