Tech use rising among older Americans

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05/31/2017

I’ve been hearing a lot about PERS and mPERS lately. Specifically, I’ve been interested to hear views on how older PERS users feel about technology.

When discussing Essence’s Care@Home Active offering, which uses a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone, company head of marketing Rafi Zauer said, “The obvious question is: How many seniors have smartphones now-a-days? There’s ample evidence … [smartphone use] is going to become almost ubiquitous over the next few years with seniors for several reasons.”

Zauer continued, “The availability of old phones, or non-smartphones is depleting. … Plus, the baby boomers in the next few years are becoming seniors themselves, and we know baby boomers use smartphones almost across the board.”

Following that conversation, as well as others, I was interested to come across a new report from Pew Research Center, titled “Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults,” which looks at older Americans and their stance on technology.

The report’s authors, Monica Anderson, Pew Research Center research associate, and Andrew Perrin, research assistant, had some interesting figures about the way older generations could view technology.

The report reads: “recent Pew Research Center surveys find that seniors are also moving towards more digitally connected lives. Around four-in-ten (42%) adults ages 65 and older now report owning smartphones, up from just 18% in 2013. Internet use and home broadband adoption among this group have also risen substantially. Today, 67% of seniors use the Internet—a 55-percentage-point increase in just under two decades. And for the first time, half of older Americans now have broadband at home.”

The report also mentions higher tech adoption in some areas among seniors that are younger, between ages 65 and 69. “Seniors ages 65 to 69 are about twice as likely as those ages 80 and older to say they ever go online (82% vs. 44%) or have broadband at home (66% vs. 28%), and they are roughly four times as likely to say they own smartphones (59% vs. 17%),” it read.

Though, the report also notes, that some seniors chose to “remain largely disconnected.” Anderson and Perrin write, “One-third of adults ages 65 and older say they never use the internet, and roughly half (49%) say they do not have home broadband services. Meanwhile, even with their recent gains, the proportion of seniors who say they own smartphones is 42 percentage points lower than those ages 18 to 64.”

I’ll be curious to find out if increased technological familiarity among seniors will change the way PERS devices are designed in the years to come.