Images and stories of senior citizens bumbling with technology is a running joke on the internet (there are enough YouTube videos and “Fails” to prove it). But, it seems the joke may be on young folks as increasing numbers of older people are using the internet and other technology successfully, and they are getting the attention of tech companies and marketers.
A recent report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that older people have made great strides in regards to their internet usage, and now 53% of adults over age 65 are online. This number is still low when compared to internet usage as a whole (82% of Americans over age 18 get online daily), but after many years of little growth, researchers found these gains to be significant.
So, what are the older generations doing online? As you might have guessed, most of them aren’t playing World of Warcraft. In fact, the majority are sticking to the basics, namely email; according to the report, 86% of internet users age 65 and older get online to use email. Still, some of them are into more “hip” activities, and around one third of them participate in social networking sites.
In addition, seniors are embracing other gadgets — especially, cell phones. Currently, 69% of those age 65 and older report owning a cell phone, which is a 12% increase from 2010′s data. Even those in the 75 and older age range, who are still lagging in terms of internet use, are jumping on the cell phone bandwagon as 56% of them have some type of mobile phone.
Instead of being out of the technology loop, as some assume, seniors’ deep pockets have made meeting their demands a focus for many tech companies and marketers, and as the Baby Boomer generation ages, businesses will undoubtedly cater to this group even more. After all, they are proving to be more tech-savvy, and they do have a ton of power in the market — those age 40 and above control 91% of net American assets.
Yes, there’s still likely to be no shortage of older people printing their emails, thinking they have to hold the iPad up to their ear while using Face Time, or wondering why only asterisks appear when they type in their password, but the evidence shows they are making improvements and not ignoring the technology trend.