Older Americans Use Technology, but Express More Frustration

Older Americans Use Technology, but Express More Frustration

Consumers in their 50s, 60s and 70s use many electronic gadgets at near-comparable rates as those in younger age segments, but older age groups report higher levels of frustration with their technological complexity, according to a study from TNS Compete and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

The study, “Greying Gadgets: How Older Americans Shop for and Use Consumer Electronics,” found that consumers in their 50s are as likely to own – or plan on buying -  an HDTV, as those under age 50,  and some 80% of 60-somethings used a cell phone in the past week, nearly equal the usage rates of 18-34 year olds. Additionally, 71% of 60-somethings and 52% of 70-somethings used a search engine in the past week, compared with 77% of 18-34 year olds.

Not all technologies have comparable usage rates among age groups, the study revealed. Younger demographics are much more likely to play video games, use portable MP3 players and visit certain websites, while usage rates of social networking sites among younger age groups is nearly double the older age segments.

Older Americans Rely More on In-Person Sources

The study also found that the majority of older Americans are comfortable researching and purchasing electronics products. Across all demographics, the internet is an integral part of the research process. Older Americans do, however, rely more heavily on in-person information sources, the study found. Nearly two-thirds (63%) spoke with a sales associate in-person when researching their consumer electronics purchase, compared with 47% of those age 18-49.

Higher Levels of Frustration Reported

Older consumers do report a higher level of frustration with the complexity of technology. Some 60% of consumers age 50+ indicated that a product having too many features was a main reason for being frustrated with technology, compared with 39% of consumers age 18-49.

“While satisfaction with CE products is high, frustrations do exist and this should be viewed as an opportunity for companies to seek ways to better address the technology needs of older Americans,” said Tim Herbert, CEA’s senior director of market research.

“In any environment, but particularly one with difficult market conditions, companies need to learn more about how to effectively reach this critical segment of older consumers,” said Elaine Warner, director, consumer technologies, TNS Compete.

About the research: The study was conducted online among a national sample of 3,135 US adults from TNS Compete’s online consumer panel, during November 2008.