While more Americans 65 and older are embracing technology, with roughly two-thirds of older citizens going online and owning smartphones, many seniors remain relatively unconnected from digital life for a variety of reasons.
According to Pew Research Center, there is a record 46 million seniors living in the United States, accounting for 15 percent of the population. And many of these seniors are embracing more digitally connected lives.
Around four in 10 (42 percent) adults ages 65 and older now report owning smartphones, up from just 18 percent in 2013. Internet use and home broadband adoption have also risen dramatically — 67 percent of seniors currently use the internet, which is a 55 percentage-point increase in just under two decades. And for the first time, half of older Americans now have broadband at home.
While there have been significant gains, many seniors have not fully embraced the digital revolution. One-third of adults ages 65 and older say they never use the internet, and roughly half (49 percent) admit they do not have home broadband services. And the number of seniors who own smartphones is 42 percentage points lower than those ages 18 to 64.
The research also shows that there are substantial differences in technology adoption based on factors such as age, household income and educational attainment. For example, 87 percent of seniors living in households earning $75,000 or more a year say they have home broadband, compared with just 27 percent of seniors whose annual household income is below $30,000.
And seniors ages 65 to 69 are about twice as likely as those ages 80 and older to ever go online. In fact, these younger, relatively affluent and/or highly educated seniors are responsible for much of the recent growth in technology adoption among their population.
In addition, older adults face unique challenges when it comes to adapting to digital life, ranging from physical challenges to a lack of comfort and familiarity with technology. Some 34 percent of older internet users say they have little to no confidence in their ability to use electronic devices to perform online tasks, while 48 percent of seniors say that this statement describes them very well: “When I get a new electronic device, I usually need someone else to set it up or show me how to use it.”
Yet 58 percent of older Americans ages 65 and older say technology has had a mostly positive impact on society. And about three-quarters of internet-using seniors say they go online on a daily basis — with nearly one in 10 going online almost constantly.