The Next Generation of Tech Geeks
(It’s not who you think)
It wasn’t that long ago that going to grandma and grandpa’s house meant going off the grid. You could expect to see the pages of a real newspaper, hear the ticking of analogue clocks; but you could seldom expect a wifi connection or a cell phone.
As our own children leave Facebook for platforms free of older relatives, we now have a generation who will never know a time when their grandparents weren’t on social media.
77 percent of individuals over the age of 65 have reported owning a cell phone; some of whom are moving on to smartphones and the many mobile apps that go with them.
Smartphones offer seniors a great amount of freedom and the ability to connect. Staying in touch with friends, family, using shopping, banking and lifestyle apps — seniors can be more mobile and active now than ever before.
According to the Government of Canada:
Internet users aged 15–24 reached a point of near-market saturation in 2007.
94% of Canadians were using the web on a day to day basis.
The same number of seniors using the internet in 2007 has quadrupled in just a few years, making 65 and older the fastest growing tech-using demographic in North America.
Amazon has launched a new version of their online shopping site called 50+ Active and Healthy Living Store designed to offer users over 50 products curated for this demographic of consumers.
While older adults have long been given the stereotype of being technology averse, studies show that the decision whether or not to join the digital world has much less to do with a stubborn insistence to keep with tradition and more to do with socioeconomic factors.
Perhaps the most frequently cited report is that released by PewResearch Center following their survey tracking internet usage among Americans. The report reveals that the more educated and financially well-off an individual the more likely they are to adopt new technologies. According to last year’s survey.
- Among seniors with an annual household income of $75,000 or more, 90% go online and 82% have broadband at home. For seniors earning less than $30,000 annually, 39% go online and 25% have broadband at home.
- 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.
Because age is negatively correlated to socioeconomic status, the older the individual the less likely they are to login online. In fact, technology use drops dramatically after age 75.
"The awareness of mental illness and physical isolation among seniors is higher now than ever before. Many researchers and medical professionals are turning to technology as a solution."
One study conducted by geriatric psychiatrist Ipsit Vahia reveals that the use of tablets can decrease agitation in older adults suffering from neurological diseases like dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Other research indicates that a category of video games known as ‘exergames’ help to improve both physical and cognitive health. Older adults who used fitness-related technology such as the popular Wii Fit saw an increase in balance, mobility, strength, flexibility and cognition, as well as a decrease in anxiety and depression.
These games have had a massive impact on the health and happiness of seniors. Nintendo’s Wii gaming console was designed with the entire family in mind, from toddlers to retirees. It’s no wonder then that Nintendo outsold every other major video game console developer by at least 20 million units.
This is not just a North American phenomena.
A study of older adults receiving technology training the UK found that learning to use computers and applications such as Facebook and Skype had a positive outcome on participant’s mental health and cognitive capacity.
So there’s no question why some tech brands are identifying older adults as the hot target audience.
While some companies are taking this approach of advertising specifically to seniors, others like Apple and Nintendo instead focus on making their products universally user-friendly so that seniors aren’t left feeling singled out for being — you guessed it — old. And according to consumer data tracker Nielsen Corporation, their efforts are paying off.
So what do these tech-savvy seniors hope to achieve with their Macbooks and iPads? According to Smith, two key goals: maintaining connections with family members and other sources of social support, and accessing information that they say they would otherwise miss out on.
With increasing pressure to join the digital world and countless new opportunities to learn, older adults will no doubt continue to broaden their understanding of technology to include even more devices, platforms and apps. As technology becomes increasingly important for staying connected in today’s society, organizations like ours are looking at ways to ensure the older adults in our community aren’t left behind.
Contact DigiLearn today for a free over-the-phone assessment of your current tech skills. Find out what you should learn and how.