Are older adults disconnected from technology or marketers?

What are the basic facts about boomer-senior connectivity?  Pew Research and others have been releasing report after report about technology use, but without a summary sheet, marketers might not be able to see the forest for the trees. So here are the basics from the past year of Pew-published surveys – to my knowledge, the only source for this number of categories that include 50+ age cohorts:

Category

All

Boomers (50-64)

Seniors

65+

Source

Comment/Example

Online

79%

78%

 

42%

 

Generations Online 2010

% of all adults

Use search engine daily

59%

52%

37%

Search & Email Top the List, 2011

% of adult internet use

Use video sharing site

71%

54%

31%

Use of Video-Sharing Sites, 2011

View YouTube or Vimeo site, % adult internet use

Look online for health info

59%

58%

29%

Social Life of Health Information, 2011

% of adult internet use

Use social networking site

61%

51%

33%

August 2011 Survey

% of adult internet use;

Have a cell-phone

85%

85%

58%

Americans and Their Gadgets, 2010

% all adults; Did not distinguish between feature and smartphones

Have a smartphone

35%

24%

11%

Smartphone Adoption, 2011

% all adults; iPhone, Android, BlackBerry examples

Make Internet calls

24%

19%

18%

Internet Phone Calls, 2011

% of adult internet use; Skype, Google Voice

Have an E-Reader

12%

13%

6%

E-Readership Ownership Doubles in 6 Months, 2011

% all adults; Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook

Have a tablet

8%

8%

2%

E-Readership Ownership Doubles…

% all adults; June, 2011, alternatives to iPad beginning to ship

Have a mobile health app

9%

6%

5%

Social Life of Health Information, 2011

% adult cell phone users; Does not distinguish between feature and smartphones

 

What’s striking about these numbers? While there has been some hype about the growing boomer cohort on Facebook and quite a bit of noise about gadgets and boomers, Pew Research numbers may be the ones to study – since their methods are at least consistent among their own reports.   Boomers slightly outpace the population overall in the use of E-Readers, but otherwise are in the tech use shadow of the population overall, and seniors – well, not so much of much.

Older adults are missing out on tech all over the place... Let’s invert a few of these rows and note that 58% of the 65+ age range are not online. Therefore they aren’t getting coupon discounts e-mailed to them, not seeing their grandkids’ photos online, chatting online with no one, never mind using Benefits Checkup or obtaining other savings by buying online -- especially airline tickets, where the message-on-hold makes the cost of a call abundantly clear.  Yet, even with the percentages lower than the population overall, we are not talking about small numbers. With 39 million people aged 65+, and boatloads of boomers turning 65 every day, 94% of seniors don’t have an E-Reader, even though buying eBooks is cheaper and the font is bigger and brighter. So that’s four million seniors who have smartphones – and around 19 million boomers. 

...But marketers are missing out on older adults.  This just in from Pew, older adults use search engines, no, really, they do!  So let's say that it's a given that large numbers of older users are out there, searching for something online, armed with some devices, waiting to be sold an E-Reader, and so on and on. And this week must have struck fear into the hearts of the aging-related industries – whether it is housing, travel, technology, or vehicles. Furthermore, local small retail businesses appear to be suffering the most – witness the stores closed and the For Lease signs appearing in upscale suburbs. At the same time, the online coupon industry is ever more crowded with new behemoths -- Amazon, Google are joining upstarts Groupon, Living Social, etc. So many discounts, so little time. Ironically, the senior discount coupon world has been around forever, but the online coupon discounters seem to not quite get the older adult market – and maybe it is because they know nothing about their use or ownership of technology -- and haven't grasped the combined implications of all of those Pew surveys.  Thoughts?

Disconnection from Marketers Can be Good & Bad

Laurie, you are right on target with the older adults - and the oldest in particular - missing out on connection with marketers and the marketers with them. A couple of thoughts on that, though. First, missing out on connecting to marketers also means missing the "opportunity" to be taken by an online scam, which is certainly a benefit for a population that is disproportionately represented in the fraud victim statistics.

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