America’s seniors have historically been late adopters to the world of technology compared to their younger compatriots, but their movement into digital life continues to deepen, according to newly released data from the Pew Research Center.
Two different groups of older Americans emerge. The first group (which leans toward younger, more highly educated, or more affluent seniors) has relatively substantial technology assets, and also has a positive view toward the benefits of online platforms. The other (which tends to be older and less affluent, often with significant challenges with health or disability) is largely disconnected from the world of digital tools and services, both physically and psychologically.
As the internet plays an increasingly central role in connecting Americans of all ages to news and information, government services, health resources, and opportunities for social support, these divisions are noteworthy—particularly for the many organizations and individual caregivers who serve the older adult population.
OLDER ADULTS FACE HURDLES TO ADOPTING NEW TECHNOLOGIES
- Physical challenges to using technology: Many seniors have physical conditions or health issues that make it difficult to use new technologies. Around two in five seniors indicate that they have a “physical or health condition that makes reading difficult or challenging” or a “disability, handicap, or chronic disease that prevents them from fully participating in many common daily activities”. This group is significantly less likely than seniors who do not face these physical challenges to go online (49% vs. 66%), to have broadband at home (38% vs. 53%), and to own most major digital devices.
- Skeptical attitudes about the benefits of technology: Older adults who do not currently use the internet are divided on the question of whether that lack of access hurts them or not. Half of these non-users (49%) agree with the statement that “people lacking internet access are at a real disadvantage because of all the information they might be missing,” with 25% agreeing strongly. But 35% of these older non-internet users disagree that they are missing out on important information—and 18% of them strongly disagree.
- Difficulties learning to use new technologies: A significant majority of older adults say they need assistance when it comes to using new digital devices. Just 18% would feel comfortable learning to use a new technology device such as a smartphone or tablet on their own, while 77% indicate they would need someone to help walk them through the process. And among seniors who go online but do not currently use social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, 56% would need assistance if they wanted to use these sites to connect with friends or family members.
ONCE SENIORS JOIN THE ONLINE WORLD, DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY BECOMES INTEGRAL PART OF DAILY LIVES
Despite some of these unique challenges facing the older adult population when it comes to technology, most seniors who become internet users make visiting the digital world a regular occurrence. Among older adults who use the internet, 71% go online every day or almost every day, and an additional 11% go online three to five times per week.
These older internet users also have strongly positive attitudes about the benefits of online information in their personal lives. Fully 79% of older adults who use the internet agree with the statement that “people without internet access are at a real disadvantage because of all the information they might be missing,” while 94% agree with the statement that “the internet makes it much easier to find information today than in the past.”
According to Ad-ology Research, Seniors — consumers who are ages 65 and older — are 58% more likely than the average consumer to conduct an online search after seeing a newspaper ad, and 45% more likely than average to conduct a search after reading an article or press release. However, Seniors are less likely than other consumer segments to participate in social media, and continue to favor traditional newsprint; 38% of Seniors read the newspaper in a print-only format 6–7 days per week. Advertisers can increase the likelihood of reaching this audience via digital technology by including web links in traditional newsprint ads.
AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to Ad-ology PRO. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the Audience Intelligence Reports in AdMall.