To borrow a phrase, rather than being born with a silver spoon in their mouths, you could say that the younger generation was born with a cell phone in their hands. And it’s true that technology is becoming much like spoken language—it’s just something that we pick up, and children as young as two or three are likely to be as adept at managing a smartphone as they are at their ABC’s. But for a long time there was a learning curve for older adults who did not come of age in front of a computer. The parents and grandparents of the younger generation had a lot more to absorb when it came to technology—but it seems that they’re catching up.
In the last few years, there’s been something of a boom in technology use by older adults. 65% of people age 65 and over are regular internet users today, compared to 53% in 2012. The numbers, compiled by Pew Research Center, show that not only are seniors utilizing technology, they’re embracing it. Four in ten seniors use smartphones to stay connected, which is way up from the survey done in 2013. Mobile health apps are very popular among seniors who are interested in tracking their medication, activity levels, and appointments.
Communication is another area where seniors are taking charge. We’ve seen that, for some families, one of the biggest challenges post-retirement is ensuring their loved ones’ safety if they do not live close enough to visit regularly. Apps such as Red Panic Button can act as an immediate lifeline in the event of a fall or injury, while something like bSafe allows your friends or family to virtually walk you home via GPS. There are even options for monitoring your home and sending alerts for open doors, appliances that have been left on, or unusual motion detected.
But it’s not all about safety—seniors are having plenty of fun online too. There’s been an increase in online dating and entertainment, and many seniors with trouble getting around consider online shopping a godsend. In fact, many online features are helping seniors be more engaged in general. Social media is becoming increasingly active in senior circles, with more and more people using it as a way to stay in touch with family and friends. Online forums allow older adults to make friends with similar interests, and meetup groups can put retirees in direct contact with other people looking to make new connections. A recent list put together the top 20 apps for senior citizens, a list that included games like Words with Friends, Kindle and other reading apps, podcasts and music such as Pandora, recipe apps like Epicurious, and Netflix for movie lovers.
In short, the internet is no longer a young person’s playground. Seniors are finding more and more to be excited about online, and as such they’re taking the reins and utilizing everything the web has to offer.