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How Tech Savvy are Seniors?

MediaThe respected Pew Research Center recently shared in-depth statistics about the use of technology by older adults in the U.S. The data presents a fascinating look at people like you and me who utilize smartphones and the Internet.

To put things into perspective, Pew defines "older adults" as those of us who are 65 years of age and older. That is currently 46 million Americans, or 15 percent of the population. That percentage is projected to grow to 22 percent by 2050. Almost half (42 percent) of these older adults own a smartphone now, a dramatic increase from 18 percent in 2013. Over two-thirds (67 percent) use the Internet, and 51 percent now have broadband connectivity at home. About one-third (32 percent) own tablet computers.

Younger seniors are more tech savvy than older seniors, reports the Pew Research Center:

"Seniors ages 65 to 69 are about twice as likely as those ages 80 and older to say they ever go online (82% vs. 44%) or have broadband at home (66% vs. 28%), and they are roughly four times as likely to say they own smartphones (59% vs. 17%)."

Another aspect of smartphone ownership, Internet usage, and broadband connectivity is not surprising: the more affluent the senior, the higher the usage and availability of technology.

Generally, seniors have a positive impression of technology:

"Fully 58% of adults ages 65 and older say technology has had a mostly positive impact on society, while roughly three-quarters of internet-using seniors say they go online on a daily basis – and nearly one-in-ten go online almost constantly."

The use of social media is mixed. A majority of seniors do not use social media, with just 34 percent saying they ever use social media networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. However, 45 percent of seniors under the age of 75 say they ever use social media.

One of the more telling barriers to technology adoption is confidence. According to Pew Research Center, "just 26% of internet users ages 65 and over say they feel very confident when using computers, smartphones or other electronic devices to do the things they need to do online. ... Roughly one-third describe themselves as only a little (23%) or not at all (11%) confident in their ability to use electronic devices to do necessary online activities."

For me, the data validates what I generally believe about technology usage. As a blogger and digital marketer who has made use of technology for a long time, I know that my comfort level with smartphones and the Internet is higher than many of my generational peers. However, I definitely relate to the relatively low usage of social media by seniors; while I blog and actively use LinkedIn and Twitter for professional purposes, I am not engaged with Facebook.

 Hopefully the data from the Pew Research Center helps you have a better understanding of tech usage by seniors. How does your use of technology fit with others in your age group?

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