Jun 20 2017
Patient-Centered Care

Seniors and Technology: Understanding Golden-Agers in the Digital Age

Seniors are increasingly getting in on the digital world, but that doesn’t mean they are aging out of the digital divide.

Newsflash! While millennials are often credited with consuming news mainly through websites and mobile apps, a new survey finds that growth in mobile news has been driven by a sharp uptick in older adults jumping onto their smartphones for the latest information. The survey from Pew Research Center, published in mid-June, found that 85 percent of adults consume news via a mobile device — jumping from 54 percent in 2013 — a number propelled by the 67 percent of Americans 65 and older who obtain news via their smartphones or tablets.

What’s motivating the silver tsunami’s mobile way of keeping up with the times? The growing number of seniors who are becoming comfortable with the new technology.

The Smartphone For Senior Citizens

A Pew report released in May found that about 42 percent of adults aged 65 and older report owning a smartphone. This use has increased significantly since 2013, when a survey revealed that just 18 percent of seniors owned the devices.

Alongside this surge in iPhone and Android ownership, internet use and home broadband adoption have skyrocketed, according to the report. In the study, 67 percent of seniors told researchers that they use the internet, representing a 55-percentage-point increase in the past two decades. Meanwhile, half of older Americans have broadband at home.

“Older Americans have consistently been late adopters to new digital technology, but seniors are deepening their experiences with various forms of technology,” said Monica Anderson, lead author and research associate at Pew Research Center, Tech.co reports.

This is evident in the ways that seniors are adopting parallel technology, such as wearables to track their health and smart in-home gadgets that can make their lives simpler.

Seniors and Technology: The Biggest Barriers to Tech Adoption

But while adoption is rising at a steady clip, more than half of seniors still aren’t taking to the new technology. What’s keeping them from embracing the digital age?

The report points out several barriers, including physical factors, socioeconomic status and lack of comfort with new tech.

“One challenge facing older adults with respect to technology is the fact that many are simply not confident in their own ability to learn about and properly use electronic devices,” the report points out.

To this point, in the 2015 survey, just 26 percent of internet users older than 65 reported feeling confident when using computers, smartphones or other electronic devices. Furthermore, about a third said they felt “only a little” or “not at all” confident in using their technology. This discomfort is exacerbated by the fact that seniors say they are less likely to ask for help with new devices.

Moreover, those with disabilities also reported being less willing to engage with tech, although voice-activated technology such as Amazon’s Echo Dot could soon help older Americans with disabilities, particularly those with low vision, to navigate the internet, stay in touch with family members and control household gadgets.

Once online, however, studies show that older adults engage at high levels with digital content, “including 17 percent who say they go online about once a day, 51 percent who indicate they do so several times a day and 8 percent who say they use the internet almost constantly,” Pew reported.

When online, they log onto Facebook, engage on social media and play video games, among other uses.

“While older adults may face unique barriers to using and adopting new technologies, once seniors are online, they tend to incorporate the internet and online activities into their everyday lives,” said Anderson.


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