Though I’m not quite a senior citizen yet, I do hope to become one someday. I vividly remember sitting in my office – must have been early 90’s or so – receiving my first email messages. At the time, I considered these messages to be a nuisance – a very cold way of communicating with someone two offices down from me. And in what seemed like a searing flash, I was caught up in a time continuum, flying through a black hole and coming out the other side into a world where 90 percent of my communication is digital. I wasn’t dragged slowly into the digital world. It just sort of happened – overnight.
Fast forward 20 years or so – and everything is digital – except for an analog watch I recently purchased. It has really big numbers on its dial, so my fading eyes can more easily tell the time of day. The times they are a changing. And let’s face it, not many people like change. Change, in essence, means doing something differently than you would normally do it. After all, our methods are tried and true. They’ve worked well for all these years. Why change something that works – right?
Fact of the matter is, digital make us more agile and smarter (insert massive understatement). And though seniors are historically late bloomers in the world of technology – make no mistake, they are blooming. They are trending toward digital life – especially affluent and well-educated seniors. A recent study by Pew Research Center shows that affluent and well-educated seniors have adopted today’s technology at a significantly higher rate than those with lower levels of income and education.
According to the Pew study, three segments of seniors in this group stand out:
- Mid to late 60s – 74% of seniors in this group go online.
- Higher-income – Among seniors with an annual household income of $75,000 or more, 90% go online.
- College grads – 87% of seniors with a college degree go online.
The good news is that once they begin trending digital, it becomes an integral part of their lives. In fact, among seniors who use the Internet, 71% go online almost every day and an additional 11% go online three to five times per week. And younger, higher-income and more educated seniors’ Internet and broadband usage meets or exceeds usage rates of the general population.
So, what are seniors doing online? According to Brookings their primary motivations for going online are as follows:
- Communicate with family and friends – 75%
- Shopping for products and services – 58%
- Getting information about health care or medical issues – 53%
- Looking for bargains on products – 46%
- Keeping up with community news – 40%
- Watching TV shows, movies, or other video – 17%
By 2050, it’s estimated that 20% of U.S. population will be seniors. The findings of the Pew Center study and others are important because they show us that in an ever-increasing digitally trending world, digital access and proficiency is critical for older adults – as this provides access to the super highway leading to a digital wonderland. As Caitlin Dewey, The Washington Post’s digital culture critic states in her column “Old people are invading the Internet,” “So if you string it all together, essentially, the social network’s booming with old, rich, white dudes.”
So, maybe I have something to aspire to.