On an Aging Population and Technology

On an Aging Population and Technology

Technology advances quickly and keeping up with its pace can be difficult for everyone. This is especially the case for aging populations who may not use computers or tech devices as often as younger generations. Overall, individuals over 65 years old use technology far less than the national average for adults. But seniors are catching up. According to Pew Research Center in 2014, 59% of people over 65 were using the internet and 47% had high-speed broadband at home compared to 86% of all other adults who use the internet.[1] Statistics for seniors vary depending on demographics and type of internet use. For instance, more affluent aging populations are more likely to use the internet and have broadband whereas lower-income individuals and those with no college degree were far less likely to use or have internet access. Also, people over 80 years old and those who had physical or mental disabilities were more removed from online use. The kind of technological use varies, as well. Social networking sites are used less frequently but are steadily increasing. At the time of the study, 27% of all Americans age 65 or older are using social networking sites.

The above statistics might indicate that more and more capable seniors are beginning to adopt new technologies. This potential runs contrary to the perception that seniors are resistant or less inclined to use technology. As indicated above, there are age-related, educational, health-related, and socioeconomic factors that determine the likelihood of technology use among seniors. But, overall, the trend is upward.

Any reticence to use technology may be linked with the learning curve associated with it. Certain social networking sites, for instance, may succeed less among aging populations because these companies have not found a way to make such sites relevant to this group.  Also, certain devices may not be adopted by aging individuals because of their appearance. For instance, USA Today reported that LifeAlert pendants were often bought but not worn.[2]  As a result, a watch with similar functionalities to LifeAlert was recently produced, but its design was similar to new high-tech watches, giving it a sleek look. It is not that aging populations are less resistant to technology, but that they have desires and standards for their devices, as much as younger generations do.

According to the United Nations’ World Population Aging Report in 2015, the number of older persons is increasing faster than all other age groups.[3]  In the US, the number of seniors could double to over 80 million, making the need to make technology accessible to this population even greater for industries worldwide.[4]

[1] Source: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/

[2] Source: http://www.today.com/money/seniors-love-technology-too-some-companies-are-starting-notice-t9856

[3] Source: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/ageing/WPA2015_Report.pdf

[4] Source: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-84.html