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Technology - AARP

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Technology - AARP

Flip phones make no sense for older adults

Consider AARP’s list of flip and smart phones. AARP just published a puzzling guide article about smartphones targeted to older adults.  Note the article and the commentary that accompanied it – (and don’t get distracted by the paragraph explaining megapixels).  You may be struck by multiple aspects of this article – in addition to the phone makers you haven’t heard of. The IDC VP refers to older adults as senior citizens, for one, the T-Mobile exec lumping older adults into 55+ segment in a sweeping generalization of being ‘value conscious.’   Okay, enough being snippy.

AARP 2021 Tech Trends Survey -- is the tech glass half empty?

First the ‘good news’ about tech adoption…  According to AARP’s newest technology adoption report, just published, older adults are positive about the role technology can play in their lives during and after Covid-19. They are chatting via video, using social media livestreams and modernizing their technology. They are buying smart TVs, costly smartphones, and earbuds.  The survey reports that 20% of the 70+ age range owns a wearable, possibly a smartwatch. Also notable, considering that most wearables are still paired with them, smartphone ownership, according to this survey, has risen most sharply among those aged 70+, with 77% of responders indicating they own one. This is a number worth questioning, however, since Pew Research's most recent mobile fact sheet indicates that only 61% of the 65+ have smartphones.

For older adults, the future of wearables is predictive

Wearable devices make up an $81.5 billion global market in 2021. According to Gartner’s January 2021 forecast, this was driven by increased consumer interest in tracking their health status during the pandemic (smart watches) and the growth of remote work (purchases and upgrades to headphones and ear-warn devices). According to one insider, 3-5 million Apple watches alone have been purchased by adults age 65+. And AARP’s newest technology adoption report, just published, notes that 20% of the 70+ age range own a wearable.  Also notable, considering that most wearables are still paired with them, smartphone ownership has risen most sharply among the 70+, with 77% of survey responders indicating they own one.

PEW: 25% of seniors age 65+ are not online. That's a problem.

Pew Research just published its periodic survey about Internet use. Let’s assume consensus that growing the percentage of those using the Internet was a social good. Let’s assume that many are now concerned that older adults may have missed vaccine sign-up opportunities without access to the Internet.  Pew’s survey categories included: Age, Rural/Urban, Male-Female, Income, Race, and Education.  The result is pretty much ho-hum – if you look only at the headline – 7% of Americans Don’t use the Internet.  Let’s say that 77% of the American population are adults (using Census data). Translating the Pew number to non-users of the Internet  results in nearly 23 million people.  Not a trivial number.  Too bad there were no correlations between Age, Education, Income with Internet use.  But we can guess what we could find.

Getting Older Adults to Tech Parity in 2021

More programs are emerging to get older adults to tech parity.  Maybe 2020 was the tipping point and 2021 is the year. The first eye-opener was the OATS/Humana report about the 22 million adults 65+ who lack home broadband. Then AARP and OATS joined together to teach tech to older adults. This followed late-year 2020 activity, including the $10 million in funding for tech training company GetSetUp. And note the $18 million of funding for Papa from Comcast Ventures to combat social isolation in older adults and launch tech-enabled health offering called Papa Health. And there are efforts here and there to help seniors get or upgrade computers.

To connect older adults, when will a trend convert to a mandate?

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, tech nice-to-haves have become critical.  Between boosting the deployment of telehealth technologies, once-delayed initiatives became instantly late. Consumers are on board with telehealth, and engagement technologies like smartphones and tablets are offered through Medicare Advantage, plus a wave of other pandemic-related tactics and free offerings appeared.  Thousands of smart speaker devices have been delivered to senior living communities.  Note that PACE programs for frail and low-income elderly are now directed by CMS to use remote technology for "activities that would normally occur on an in-person basis," such as scheduled and unscheduled participant assessments, care planning, monitoring, communication, and other activities.”

Pew's simplistic survey of Internet importance during Covid-19

How essential has the Internet been during this pandemic? Read down the April Pew report with the moniker, “53% of Americans say the Internet has been essential during the Covid-19 pandemic. Go past the concerns about whether students can complete work, past the political debate about whether the government should provide Internet access -- there are some interesting nuggets and puzzling findings. During the Covid-19 outbreak, only 31% of the 65+ said the Internet was essential; 49% said it was important but not essential, and 20% said it was not too/not at all important, with likely those with more education believing it to be essential.   Given that response, it also followed that those over age 65 were not too worried about being able to pay the bill for smartphone or broadband use. 

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