Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, January 16, 2018
The number of actively connected seniors continues to rise, even while their connection rate has stalled. Also, seniors are very active with their connected devices, from PCs to tablets and smartphones.
There are more American seniors online than ever before. This is primarily due to two factors – rapid mobile phone adoption and the growing number of seniors in the U.S. population. Based on our TUP/Technology User Profile 2017 survey, nearly 44 million adults age 62 and older actively using a PC, tablet, mobile phone, or game console to connect to the Internet.
A market segment often overlooked or derided by the tech industry, seniors have been increasingly embracing technology, weaving it into the fabric of their lives.
Mobile phones are hot among older adults, especially smartphones. tablet and smartphone usage have soared among Americans age 62 and above, rising 49% and 47% per year, respectively, between 2013 to 2017. In 2013, the number of active tablet users age 62 and over was under 4 million, and in 2017 that number is 19.1 million seniors. Similarly, smartphone use has grown from less than 6 million adults age 62 and over in 2013 to 26.8 million in 2017.
Notebook PC use has also grown, while overall PC use has remained essentially flat. Mobile PC use has grown 20.4% per year from 2013 to 2017. Use of at least one PC has increased by 1.8% per year from 2013 to 2017.
Getting connected has outpaced population growth. Only a small part of these growth rates is due to the growing population of seniors. The US Census projected that the number of Americans age 65 and above grew 3.3% per year from 2013 to 2016. During this same period, the number of connected adults age 65 and above grew 5.6% per year. The current number of 43.4 million adults regularly using an Internet-connected PC, tablet, mobile phone, or game console is up from 35.7 million in 2013. In other words, one in five (20%) connected adults in the US are age 62 and above.
The rapid growth of smartphone use among seniors is due in part to the many of these adults who have given up their old data-free basic cell phones. However, that’s not the entire story. Overall mobile phone adoption has grown. Between 2013 to 2017, mobile phones are in the hands of 20.5 million more adults age 62 or above.
Not to be underestimated
Seniors are big tech spenders. The average annual household technology spending by adults 62 and older is $6.6k. Among slightly older adults 65 and older, the average is slightly less at $6.5k per year for all technology devices and services. Like their younger counterparts, the majority of tech spending by older adults is for services, from cable TV and smartphone service to Internet connections.
More than healthcare
Often seniors are overlooked with the uninformed belief that they are not active with their connected devices, or only focused on healthcare. Although not as active as younger connected adults, seniors are busy with their connected devices.
More than 50% of connected adults age 62 and older around the world use their primary connected device for nearly every type of activity: from communication, shopping, information & search, and personal/productivity, to entertainment. One reason that seniors may be thought to be less active is their relatively lower presence on social networks, making them less visible. This is based on our TUP/Technology User Profile 2017 survey across five countries (US, Germany, India, UK, and China).
Searching online for healthcare information is a major activity for half of seniors using their primary connected device, although it’s the fifth-ranked activity. Even more widespread are activities such as shopping, staying in touch, on top of finances, and current events.
I expect connected seniors to continue to expand their use of their technology, while unconnected seniors will remain unconnected. Those already connected will follow the path of younger adults and these senior’s younger selves, finding evermore ways to enjoy and utilize each type of technology they’ve adopted. Among unconnected seniors, the flattened connection rates aren’t likely to spike soon with the current approaches. Although many organizations from retailers to hospitals are nearly demanding that all their clients all interact online, force isn’t working. Unconnected adults are not being served, or organizations are needing to rely on connecting through traditional methods: postal mail, landline phones, and personal visits. Senior non-users are unlikely to respond to the benefits that attracted younger adults online in the first place. Instead, new approaches are needed.
In the meantime, don’t be surprised to see more active seniors toting smartphones and tablets.
The information in this TUPdate is based on the most recent wave of TUP/Technology User Profile – the TUP 2017 wave into the US, UK, Germany, India, and China.
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