Technology Applications and the Fast-Moving Elderly: The Facts on the Ground

Posted on June 29, 2012 by

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In 2011, nearly 80 million Baby Boomers turned 65, earning themselves the official title of ‘senior citizens.’ I’m not a huge fan of this title, myself, but there’s a lot to go with aging that has real positives, so I’ve turned the other cheek.

Additionally, the image of the doddering elderly person, cut off from technological advances and living out her time in a haze of memories of better, easier days is long-gone.

Just look at me (ok, yes, I’m a senior citizen according to these terribly arbitrary rules).

I have a blog on WordPress and Tumblr, a Twitter and Pinterest account, have a voice  on BlogCatalog. . .am I savvy or what? [The fact that my daughter manages all this for me so I just have to 'show up,' so to speak, may be relevant here, but I act very attentive when she shows me what 'we've' Pinned or Stumbled, so I think that counts for a lot.]

Before we discuss what all this technology actually does for the senior citizen in our next post, let’s just establish the seniors’ bona fides in this area of technological expertise, so you won’t think I’m bragging without cause about my generation.

According to the Accenture Consumer Electronics Products And Services Usage Survey  09,

Baby boomers are embracing popular consumer technology applications nearly twenty times faster than [the] younger generation.

[Take that, you Millenials!]

According to a Nielsen Wire survey published at the very end of 2009, people 65+ made up less than 10% of active Internet users at the time.

Ok. Not very good. But it’s all about progress, I say. So I’m not discouraged, particularly when I read that

in the last five years [they mean 2004-09], the number of seniors actively using the Internet has increased by more than 55 percent, from 11.3 million active users in November 2004 to 17.5 million in November 2009. [emphasis mine]

That’s right. Eat your heart out Generations X, Y and Z. And I expect the last 2-1/2 years have seen further growth.

But wait–there’s more yet to come. The number 1 online destination for people over 65 in November 2009 was Google Search, which doesn’t surprise me–as it’s something I know how to do without any assistance from offspring.

But numbers 2 and 3 showed me just how progressive my generation is (and reminds me I should ask my daughter if I need a Facebook account).

Windows Media Player came in second place, and  Facebook took a respectable third.

Things change fast. In 2008 Facebook was #45 on the list of sites visited by the elderly such as myself.

And get this:

Overall, the number of unique visitors who are 65 or older on social networking and blog sites has increased 53 percent in the last two years alone. 8.2% of all social network and blog visitors are over 65, just 0.1 percentage points less than the number of teenagers who frequent these sites.

That’s right–we’re catching up with the teenagers. [Although competing with teenagers in any area seems a bad idea; they can be rotten losers.]

In fact, those 74 and older (meaning much older than my spring-chicken self) are the fastest growing demographic among social networks, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Between 2008-2010 usage quadrupled [although granted from a small 4% to a not very giant 16%].

Just get a load of this bar graph:

(Click through to pagetrafficbuzz.com)

I mean, they’re savvy to Google+, which I’m certain I would never have heard the first thing about until my daughter forced my hand on there?! These old people are one advanced group. 

To return to the Accenture ’09 survey for a moment, their visual (you know I just love visuals) indicates boomer growth in just about every technological arena. Boomers:

  • Have increased reading blogs and listening to podcasts by 67 % year over year; nearly 80 times faster than Gen Y (1 percent);
  • Posted a 59 percent increase in using social networking sites—more than 30 times faster than Gen Y (2 percent); and
  • Increased watching/posting videos on the Internet by 35 percent—while Gen Y usage decreased slightly (-2 percent)

Wondering what else we elderly are doing once we’ve logged in, if we’re not tweeting and blogging? The Pew Internet Survey informs us–and it sure does look like a lot of e-mail.

BUT. . .there’s a bunch of searching going on, and a large percentage of people are getting their news online, a total change from my day when we all sat around the TV (for which you actually had to get up to change the channel, should you want to watch the other channel) and watched The Nightly News, which seemed like it could have been handed down from on high.

You spoke during the broadcast at your own peril.

It appears to be a thing of the past.

And do you love how many people 74 and older are online shoppers? God bless all of us–we keep the economy going from the comfort of our own homes.

Particularly notice that percentage of boomers who are using the Internet to gather health information. Keep that under your hat–for we’ll be returning to it in a later post.

And lest we leave off without addressing that ubiquitous American tool–the mobile–if you think the Boomers have been left out of that craze, well, you’re crazy.

In 2011, 86.9% of Boomers had mobile phones.

I find this staggering, given that these didn’t exist–not when I was a kid, but a grown woman. And somehow doctors and stock brokers survived, I promise they did.

Jan Chronic writes in her article “Marketing to Baby Boomers,” that one-quarter of that 87% of mobile phone users were expected to access the internet via mobile browsers or installed apps by 2012.

And, by 2015, 40% of the baby boomers will use the internet via mobile.

In short, a generation that grew up on “Leave it To Beaver” and hosted ‘the British Invasion’ are making the technological world of the 21st century their own, to inhabit comfortably, and that in itself is an impressive feat, given that there were no PCs until I did my PhD, no Cable TV until my children were in school, my daughters did their college research ‘in the stacks,’ in a world before universities had academic papers online–and the concept of e-mail would have been so mind-blowing people would have laughed about it.

Times change, and people change with them–even old folks, like us.

Now–what has all this technological advancement done for we senior citizens? Well, for that you’ll have to access this blog again on your mobile tomorrow.