More seniors than ever before are embracing digital technology like smartphones and the internet, according to a newly released report from Pew Research.
The report is based in part on findings from a phone survey of 3,015 U.S. adults conducted between Sept. 29, 2016, and Nov. 6, 2016.
About 42% of seniors ages 65 and older now say they own a smartphone, such as iPhone or Android devices. That’s up from just 18% in 2013, the data shows. Seniors still lag behind their younger counterparts by a wide margin, however. The number of seniors who say they own smartphones is 42 percentage points lower than those ages 18 to 64.
Seniors are also using the internet and home broadband much more than they used to. A whopping 67% of seniors now report using the internet, representing a 55-point increase in usage in less than 20 years. Similarly, half of those surveyed say they have high-speed internet at home, the research notes.
Older Americans also are networking online more frequently than they used to. Currently, 34% of seniors say they use social media sites like Facebook or Twitter. That’s up from 2013, when just 27% of seniors reported using Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking sites.
Younger seniors are more likely to embrace new tech than older ones. People between the ages of 65 and 69 are roughly two times as likely to go online as those who are 80 or older (82% vs. 44%). Younger seniors are also more likely to have high-speed internet connections at home (66% vs. 28%), and own smartphones at a much higher rate (59% vs. 17%).
Household income also affects seniors’ rate of technology adoption according to Pew. Of the seniors living in households that make $75,000 or more each year, 87% say they have high speed internet at home. In contrast, just 27% of seniors whose annual household income is below $30,000 have high speed internet. College graduates also adopt technology at a quicker rate than seniors with lower levels of education.
Despite the number of seniors who have embraced technology, many senior living providers have been slow to adopt new technology in their communities. Between January 2016 and January 2017, providers, many of them not-for-profit, dedicated an average of 11.8% of their total capital budget to technology, a drop from 12.2% in 2014, according to a January survey by Chicago-based specialty investment bank Ziegler.
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Seniors, too, are still wary of new technology, even as they embrace it in greater numbers, the Pew research shows. A third of seniors say that they never use the internet, and nearly half (49%) of those that do report they don’t have high-speed internet at home.
And most seniors still don’t feel comfortable with digital technology, the data shows. Of the seniors surveyed, only 26% of those who use the internet say they feel “very confident” when using computers, smartphones or other electronic devices. About one-third of them say they’re “a little” (23%) or “not at all” (11%) confident in their ability to use those devices to log on.
Additionally, just under three quarters of the seniors surveyed said the statement, “when I get a new electronic device, I usually need someone else to set it up or show me how to use it,” describes them either “very” (48%) or “somewhat” (25%) well.
Written by Tim Regan