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Linkage – A rare survey of technology ownership among the oldest

When there’s nothing else to buy. Funny about technology ownership among the oldest – generally there is no way to know whether they own any or if would they buy it. Neither Pew (in 2018) nor AARP (2019 technology ownership) broke out upper age ranges. So Link·age Connect is an outlier that asks ownership questions and documents age breakdowns of responders, half of whom were age 75+. This 2019 Technology Survey of Older Adults Age 55-100, conducted online, notes that 80% of respondents (45% of whom live in senior-oriented communities/housing) have smartphones. At this point, if the mobile phone breaks, what’s the store rep going to promote, and it doesn’t matter which store? While they carry flip/feature phones, an iPhone or an Android phone can be used just like a flip phone. More than 50% of respondents have smart TVs (yes, that’s nearly all you can buy these days).  

When there’s plenty of positives to say...  With grandchildren encouragement and media hype, unlike the 2016 Link·age survey, the responders were quite aware of the newer technologies on the market. But if they did not already own them, and even if they did, they were not interested in learning more about what’s new. The Internet, Family, Google and Friends are their trusted sources, and online training is the preferred method for learning about communications tech.  The comments (pages of them) captured perspectives in a way other research doesn't. Said an 80+ year old woman:  "It’s a very exciting field for me and I love using it in limited ways."  "Keeping up with the changes in computers keeps my mind expanding (or trying to)!" said a woman, age 85+. And another, age 80+: "I would be lost without it." From a male, age 85+: "Car tech also helps with safety, Bluetooth, and back-up camera." From a woman age 90+: "Glad I lived this long to enjoy it."

…And not so positive. Another woman, age 80+: "The biggest factor is how it is always changing, out-of-date the minute you buy it." Said another, same age: “When hacking is no longer an issue, I’ll be more interested." "I think technology is great, but how much do we need?" (Woman, age 85+).  And it’s "For my wife only” (Male, Age 90-94). "I think the beginning of it is hard and easier for young people to adapt to." (Female, Age 95+).  From a man, age 85+: "I need to know more. I walk into Best Buy and feel like a dummy!"  And from a woman aged 90+: "It is a challenge to older retired people." And the biggest understatement: "Some devices are unnecessarily complicated with inadequate documentation." (From a male, age 80-84). 

Five factors characterize what this older demographic expects.  The report also covers safety and security technology, smart home, as well as health and wellness usage. It summed up factors that are most important when designing products for the oldest demographics: Trust, Personal Contact, Frugality (regardless of income), Simplicity, and Education. Who could disagree? They do not want to "fumble", according to the report author, Link·Age’s Suzanne Viox.  Yet "fumble" is exactly the out-of-the-box experience we all have with new technology, making us feel incompetent, or at the very least, insecure.  Perhaps not surprisingly, 22% of the responders already own smart speakers. Maybe the out-of-the-box experience -- where the device says “Hello!” and suggests topics to ask about -- may have been startling, to say the least.  

[NOTE: If you are going to be at CALA in Monterey next week, or the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit in Berkeley -- let's meet!]


Article I wrote for a couple Washington, DC senior-oriented publications:

Don't Suffer Computer Problems By Yourself -- Local Organizations Help
By Gabe Goldberg
(Director, Potomac Area Computer Society and Washington Apple Pi)

The only thing worse than having computer, Internet, or other technology
problems is suffering them alone. But take heart: local organizations
called "user groups" let you meet friendly people to help cope with and
even enjoy technology.

User groups run general meetings featuring wide-ranging topics from
general technology (e.g., online safety, privacy, getting better search
results) to specific technologies (password managers, favorite
Windows/Apple/other utilities, care and feeding of personal network
routers, etc.).

Group offerings also include newsletters, free-wheeling Q&A sessions,
discounts on books and hardware and software, raffle prizes, email and
web services, and online "virtual technology conferences". Groups share
the motto "users helping users".

Though it's easy to think that buying a computer is as simple as picking
a microwave oven, groups offer assistance for this. People are often
surprised by decisions involved, then enjoy tailoring a system to their
unique needs.

As non-profit organizations, user groups provide community services such
as judging science fairs and refurbishing used computers for deserving
schools, organizations, and individuals.

User group membership provides a setting to make friends, socialize, and
give and receive help. As a volunteer organization, a user group is like
a credit union, in that the more effort people contribute, the more
payback they and their community receive. I give advice and support in
some areas, and receive it in others. So my efforts are not an expense
for me, but a rewarding investment in myself and my community. Yours can
be too.

User groups love new members and it's easy to join, get to know people,
and quickly feel like a long-time member. I'd hate to think about facing
my computer without my fellow user group members beside me! And groups
love volunteers; getting involved is personally rewarding, a way to
serve the community, and the best introduction to a group's technology

To find a group NEAR YOU, visit: https://apcug2.org/locate-a-user-group/


Being overly connected can cause psychological issues such as distraction, narcissism, expectation of instant gratification, and even depression. Beside affecting users' mental health, use of technology can also have negative repercussions on physical health causing vision problems, hearing loss, and neck strain.

Other ways technology is seen to have a positive effect on society include increased knowledge and understanding, improvements in industry and jobs and an interconnectedness of the world as a result of globalization. Use wisely.


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