Saturday, April 19, 2014

7 interesting findings about seniors’ Internet use from Pew Research

by Stephanie Baum,

April 18 01:11 PM

Senior Americans’ grasp of the Internet and mobile devices is more complex than most people may realize, according to a new report from Pew Research Center. About six in 10 Americans aged 65 and older use the Internet and about 47 percent say they have broadband access at home. But age and income make a big difference in that user base.

The report on seniors’ Internet use was based on a survey of more than 5,000 Americans aged 65 and older. For those in the business of developing health IT and mobile health tools for this demographic, here are some of the most interesting findings.

A little more about age: Once seniors hit the 75-79 age group, Internet adoption falls to 47 percent and broadband adoption decreases to 34 percent.

Income and education level play a role: Pew’s report highlights two distinct groups of seniors. Retirement aged Americans that tend to use the Internet fall between 65 and 75, are highly educated and affluent and tend to have a positive view toward online platforms. But older, less affluent seniors with health and disability challenges tend to be disconnected from the digital world “both physically and psychologically,” according to the report.

Social networks: Here are some interesting stats for entrepreneurs and companies with a healthcare marketing strategy around seniors. About 46 percent of seniors who go online also said they use social networks like Facebook. More women aged 65 and older use social networking sites (52 percent), but only 39 percent of men in the same age bracket said they did. The younger they are, the more likely they are to tap social networks. About 54 percent of Internet users in the 65-69 bracket use social networking sites, compared with 27 percent of Internet users ages 80 and older. But they’re not big on Twitter — only 6 percent said they used it.

Smartphones: Although 77 percent of seniors own a cell phone, which is a big jump from 69 percent just a couple of years ago, only 18 percent use smartphones.

Comfort level: Older Americans generally are not comfortable learning new technology on their own. Personally, I think one of the biggest reasons for this is they think they’ll break something or do something wrong. Most of my Internet navigation experience is based on making mistakes, so I am inclined to think this is a generational issue. At the same time, the report points out that there’s definitely a willingness to learn how to use devices such as tablets and smartphones with assistance. About 77 percent said they would need someone to help them vs. 18 percent who said they’d learn on their own.

Frequency: Among seniors who use the Internet, 71 percent said they go online every day or almost every day compared with 11 percent who said they use the Internet three to five times per week.

Health condition challenges: The survey also looked at seniors who said they either had a condition that made reading challenging or have a disability, handicap, or chronic disease that prevents them from fully participating in many common daily activities. About 39 percent fall into one of these two categories, and it means they are less likely to use the Internet or mobile devices than other seniors. Just under half said they used the Internet (compared with 66 percent of seniors in general). Still, the ownership rate for tablets and e-books was pretty similar compared with older Americans who don’t have these physical challenges (22 percent vs 30 percent).

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