Older Americans Embracing Technology, Albeit Slowly

(CN) – The digital revolution has come to the elderly, with more older Americans owning smartphones and connecting to the internet than ever before, according to survey data compiled by the Pew Research Center.

For Americans 65 and older, 42 percent reported owning a smartphone – a jump of 24 percent from 2013, according to Pew’s analysis released on Wednesday.

The older demographic has also made strides in terms of internet connectivity, according to the report. Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed said they have used the internet, a climb of about 55 points in two decades.

“As is true for the population as a whole, there are also substantial differences in technology adoption within the older adult population based on factors such as age, household income and educational attainment,” Monica Anderson and Richard Perrine, co-authors of the study, write.

But the trend has not been universal, as nearly a third of people 65 and older say they have never used the internet and about half say they do not have internet access in their homes.

“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 authors wrote.

In breaking down the numbers, seniors who are toward the younger end of demographic spectrum (ages 65-69) are twice as likely to say they go online as those 80 and older, and are four times more likely to say they own a smartphone.

Whether seniors adopt technology is also dependent on household income, with the affluent more likely to adopt smartphones and have broadband at home. The correlation is roughly equivalent regarding education: those who’ve completed higher education are significantly more likely to have modern technology than their less educated counterparts.

Technology adoption is critical for seniors hoping to stay engaged with the political and social fabric of the nation, particularly as public discourse shifts from traditional media to internet-based social media, according to the study.

“Today, 34 percent of Americans ages 65 and up say they use social-networking sites like Facebook or Twitter,” the authors write. “This represents a seven-point increase from 2013, when 27 percent of older adults reported using social media.”

Despite the upticks in use, barriers to seniors’ widespread adoption of technology remains – the largest one being a lack of confidence.

A mere 26 percent of seniors describe themselves as confident in using smartphones, tablets or the internet for required tasks, the study says.

With the increase in usage, there is an associated increase in the percentage of older Americans who say technology is mostly a positive force in modern society.

“At a broad level, 58 percent of seniors feel that technology has had a mostly positive effect on society, while just 4 percent feel that impact has been mostly negative,” the study says.

Unsurprisingly, the study found that the more an older American uses technology, the more they were willing to say its effects were generally positive.


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