Older Adults’ Tech Adoption on the Rise; Social Media Use Remains Limited

May 31, 2017

Seniors’ (ages 65+) use of technology has rapidly grown over the years: two-thirds report using the internet and just over half now have a home broadband connection, according to a new report [pdf] from the Pew Research Center.

Older adults have also embraced smartphones, tablets and social media use to a greater degree over the years, although factors such as age, education and income levels play a big part in how likely they are to adopt these technologies.

Internet & Home Broadband Now Mainstream

Two-thirds of seniors now use the internet (67%) and have home broadband (51%), according to the survey, which was conducted in late 2016.

While adoption may be lagging compared to the 90% of all adults who use the internet and 73% who have home broadband, it’s still a substantial uptick from 2000, when 12% of seniors accessed the internet and none had home broadband.

Use among younger seniors is even more common: 82% of 65-69 year-olds use the internet, and 66% of the same group have broadband.

Smartphones Growing In Popularity

Some 80% of seniors own cell phones, but only about half of those (42%) say they own smartphones. College educated older adults (65%) and those with household incomes of $75k+ (81%) are the most likely to own a smartphone. Not surprisingly, younger seniors are also much more likely to own a smartphone than their older counterparts, with ownership rates reaching 59% among 65-69 year-olds have one.

Smartphone ownership in these groups with above-average rates has almost doubled since 2013.

Tablet & Social Media Adoption Fall Behind

Tablet ownership has not caught on as rapidly as other technologies. Only about one-third of older Americans own a tablet (32%), with stark education and income gaps again in play. A majority (62%) of higher-income ($75k+) seniors own a tablet, as do 56% of college graduates.

Just as with tablet ownership, social media has yet to become mainstream with the older demographic. But with 34% now using social media, its use has increased from 2013, when only 27% used them.

Social media adoption is linked again to age, income and education. Even so, fewer than half (47%) of 65-69-year-olds reported having ever used social media sites.

Other Findings:

  • Only 26% of seniors say they are very confident when using electronic devices, compared to 70% of 18-29 year olds, and 60% of 30-49 year olds.
  • Almost three-quarters of seniors admit to needing help setting up or teaching them how to use a new device.
  • Among seniors, 76% of internet users and 91% of smartphone owners go online at least once a day.
  • The majority of older adults surveyed (58%) agree that technology has had a mostly positive effect on society, while only 4% believe that it has had a mostly negative impact.

About the Data: The Pew internet use data is based on telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from September 29-November 6, 2016, among a sample of 3,015 US adults, age 18 and older. Telephone interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (757) and cell phone (2,258, including 1,342 without a landline phone). Other data is based on a March 7-April 4, 2016 tracking survey of 1,520 USÂadults age 18 and older.


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