Seniors Are Increasingly Embracing The Internet And Mobile Technology
April 4, 2014

Seniors Are Increasingly Embracing The Internet And Mobile Technology

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

While some people may think of seniors as technology-averse, a new Pew Research study has revealed that Americans 65 and older are increasingly embracing the Internet and mobile technology – particularly seniors who are younger and more educated.

According to the new report, 59 percent of seniors said they use the Internet, a six-percent increase over the last year, and 47 percent say they have a high-speed broadband connection where they live. Furthermore, 77 percent of older adults now own a cell phone, up from 69 percent in April 2012.

While these increases are seen as encouraging, in a society where services are being increasingly provided via the Internet, seniors still lag behind – as nine in 10 American adults own a cell phone and/or have a high speed connection.

Pew research's Aaron Smith said there are a few possible reasons why older Americans have lower rates of adopting new technology.

“First, many seniors face unique physical challenges to using technology,” Smith said, according to Al Jazeera America. “Second, many seniors who aren’t technology users have skeptical views towards the benefits of technology, and don’t see how technology is relevant to their lives.”

The new report parses out different subgroups within the senior community. For example, Internet use drops off sharply starting at around age 75 – with 68 percent of adults in the first half of their 70s going online and just 47 percent of those 75 to 79 being connected.

The Pew researchers also found household income to be a determining factor for Internet use. Ninety percent of seniors with a household income of $75,000 or more say they use the Internet, while just 39 percent of seniors with a household income of $30,000 or less are doing so.

“There are still a sizable number of older adults — generally older and less affluent, and often with significant health or disability issues — that are largely disconnected from the digital world,” Smith said. “They don’t use technology to any great degree, they would not feel comfortable learning how to use technology on their own, and in many cases they don’t feel like they are missing out on too much.”

The report identified physical disability as a major obstacle in seniors adopting the internet, 49 percent versus 66 percent of non-disabled seniors, or a broadband connection, 38 percent versus 53 percent.

Skeptical attitudes about technology were also reported as an obstacle to Internet adoption, with 35 percent of older non-Internet users disagreeing with the notion that they are missing out on important information and 18 percent saying they strongly disagree with that idea.

The Pew researchers said seniors may also have trouble learning their way around the technology. Only 18 percent of respondents said they feel comfortable using a smartphone or tablet and 77 percent admitted they would need some kind of assistance.

Smith said the results of the report should be concerning, since many vital services are using the Internet as a main source of interaction, particularly in the case of government services.