Grandpa on the Facebook.
“Oh no!,” exclaims nearly everyone in the family. “This can’t end well!”
And, yet, get over it family. America’s older adults are increasingly connected to the digital world and actually learning how to use 21st Century digital technology.
“Pew Research Center surveys find that seniors are also moving towards more digitally connected lives,” explains the Center in a May report. “Around four-in-ten (42%) adults ages 65 and older now report owning smartphones, up from just 18% in 2013.”
Pew suggests the increase is partly due to the expansion of broadband internet systems across the the U.S. But also because, well, it’s about time.
“Today, 67% of seniors use the internet – a 55-percentage-point increase in just under two decades,” points out Pew. “And for the first time, half of older Americans now have broadband at home.”
“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,” explains the Center. “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.”
The actual age of Americans considered to be seniors play a role in digital use, suggests Pew, as does level of income and levels of education – just like in the American population as a whole.
“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%),” said Pew.
“Adoption rates also vary greatly by household income. Fully 87% of seniors living in households earning $75,000 or more a year say they have home broadband, compared with just 27% of seniors whose annual household income is below $30,000. Educational differences follow a similar pattern, with college graduates adopting technology at much higher rates than seniors with lower levels of formal education.”
It is the relatively younger, more educated seniors who are diving the digital expansion among the age group as a whole.
“For example, smartphone ownership among seniors whose annual household income is $75,000 or more increased by 39 percentage points since 2013 – 15 points higher than the growth reported among seniors overall,” said Pew.
Simply not understand today’s digital technology presents a barrier to some seniors, Pew suggests.
“Some 34% of older internet users say they have little to no confidence in their ability to use electronic devices to perform online tasks, while 48% of seniors say that this statement describes them very well: ‘When I get a new electronic device, I usually need someone else to set it up or show me how to use it’,” explained the center, drawing on its research.
Despite the barriers, Pew said Senior Americans like the digital age overall and understand its benefits and uses.
“Fully 58% of adults ages 65 and older say technology has had a mostly positive (effect) on society, while roughly three-quarters of internet-using seniors say they go online on a daily basis – and nearly one-in-ten go online almost constantly,” said the Center.
The Pew Center’s findings are based on a survey of just over 3,000 representative Americans in late fall 2016.