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Source: Mike Jensen NBC NEWS

January 21, 2000

      In Virginia, Molly Irvin and her toddler used their computer to send an e-mail photo to granddad,"Papa." One hundred fifty miles away, in Pennsylvania, "Papa" - 59-year-old Larry Chimerine - took the photo out of his printer. "It's the highlight of my life," he says. "It's a feeling that is almost indescribable. It's pure joy." Chimerine has plenty of company. An astonishing 25 million U.S. grandparents are logged on to the Internet.

      It's the fastest-growing group on the Internet - and the richest.

      They're already spending $6 billion a year online, and that's expected to grow to $15 billion in just three years. They are people like Jim Reiley, who's 65 and just bought his first computer to stay in touch with his grandkids and to plan a European vacation. "If you're 65 years old and you don't have a computer, you're crazy," he says. "The stereotype, of course, is someone who's playing shuffleboard who is afraid of technology," says Luanne Flikkema, director of global research for Gateway 2000. "The truth of the matter is thatSthese 55-plus people are out sending e-mails to their grandkids. They're doing online investments."

      Larry Chimerine, who got the photo of his granddaughter by e-mail, and his friend Richard Anthony, who has 15 grandchildren, are trying to capitalize on all this. They started a website called www.iGrandparents.com that opened for business Friday. "Our idea is to make this a one-stop shop where grandparents can interact with their grandkids S Games and puzzles and photo-sharing and educational tools," explains Chimerine.

      What else? "Being able to get online and talk with other grandparents about issues that I as a grandparent am confronting," says Anthony. It's the newest website for grandparents, but hardly the only one. The Internet's full of them. Many grandparents say it's the next best thing to being there.

      All those grandparents and 50 million grandchildren already online makes an irresistible combination for any Internet business that can bring them together.

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