Resources for Family Caregivers of Older Adults
Because They’ll Use Them: Reason to Give Seniors Smartphones & Tablets

Because They’ll Use Them: Reason to Give Seniors Smartphones & Tablets

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We’ve heard variations on the theme many times over, through responses to our tweets and Facebook posts, comments to our articles, and one-on-one conversations . . .

“Mom will never use a tablet, she’s too set in her ways to even try something like that.”

“Getting Dad a smartphone would be a waste of money, since he would only use it to make calls.”

Gratitude is now what we hear each time we have convinced family caregivers to give a senior loved one a smartphone or tablet over those objections.

Fortunately, we are hearing a growing volume of “I didn’t think they would really use it, but …”

Seniors Getting Smartphones & Tablets

Regular visitors to Senior Care Corner® have heard us advocating the ownership of mobile devices by older adults for some time.

Not only do seniors benefit from the use of smartphones and tablets themselves, but we see those as gateway devices. For those who were not “born digital,” mobile devices can build comfort with technology and make it easier to welcome into homes the technologies that will improve health, safety, and comfort for older adults.

While we are gratified to get feedback from many regarding the mobile device adoption by their own senior loved ones, we are pleased the statistics are consistent with our anecdotal evidence.

68% of seniors (65+) in the US own smartphones, as reported by Nielsen Online Insights based on research conducted in 3rd quarter 2016. That is higher than the number reported by AARP based on July 2016 research, which found 68% of those aged 60 to 69 had smartphones but only 29% of those 70 years of age and older.

While fewer older adults own tablets — 40% of those 50+ according to AARP, which is in line with the findings of the Consumer Technology Association earlier in 2016 — there are growing numbers with those devices as well.

Mobile device ownership alone does not ensure our senior loved ones are benefiting, of course. They have to use them.

And they are!

Much More Than Phone Calls

One concern we have heard over time from family caregivers is that their senior loved ones would use smartphones just for making phone calls, making them expensive and complicated telephones.

According to the AARP research, as published in its 2016 Technology Trends among Mid-Life and Older Americans, very few older adults with smartphones use them for calls only. Only 20% use them for just calls and email, the basic function for most mobile device owners.

How did AARP find older adults to be using smartphones?

  • Email and/or text messaging by 92% of those 60-69 and 78% of those 70+
  • Directions or traffic info by 75% of those 60-69 and 62% of those 70+
  • Web surfing is done by 68% of those 60-69 and 42% of those 70+
  • Using a social networking site (such as Facebook or Instagram) was named by 56% of those 60-69 and 40% of those 70+

Significant percentages of older adults also said they did such things as make online purchases, play games, and even do their banking on their smartphones.

Yes, seniors with smartphones WILL use them!

That doesn’t even take into account the number of seniors who no longer have to worry about lugging around a camera because they have joined the millions who use their smartphones for photography.

Tablets Replacing Traditional Computers

While tablets are still not as common as laptop or desktop computers among older adults, tablet use is growing while the other computing devices are falling in popularity.

Tablets are being used for most of the same tasks as smartphones. Their larger screen size makes them better suited for many applications, especially for those with diminished eyesight or dexterity. That same large screen puts tablets on par with many traditional computing options with the added benefit of greater portability.

It remains to be seen whether seniors migrate to smartphones with larger screens, often called “phablets” as a hybrid of smartphones and tablets, as is being seen with younger mobile device users.

Seniors ARE Using Social Networks

We have advocated the use of social networks, also called social media, even longer than the use of mobile devices (see our article “5 Benefits of Social Media for Seniors – Let’s Help Them Get Online!” which is one of our most read). We are also gratified by both anecdotal and published progress in that regard.

Accord to the Pew Research Center’s “Social Media Update 2016” . . .

  • 62% of online seniors use Facebook
  • 20% of online seniors use LinkedIn
  • 18% of online seniors use Pinterest

Older adults are much less likely than those in younger age groups to use Twitter and Instagram.

Connecting with Family & Friends

We have long pointed to the ability to stay connected with those they know and love as a primary benefit of mobile device and social networking use by seniors. Based on their usage, seniors seem to agree.

AARP found, in its research, over 70% of older adults who have digital devices use them to stay connected to friends and family.

While email and text messaging are most popular, 64% of those aged 60-69 and 46% of those 70+ who use tech to communicate connect with friends and family using social networking. That’s no surprise, since social networking spans all generations.

Almost one third of those aged 60-69 and a quarter of those 70+ using digital devices to communicate with friends and family using video chat, which includes FaceTime, Skype and other applications. We see these numbers only growing as seniors discover how easy digital devices make face to face communication.

But Will Your Senior Use Them?

The evidence is clear – – millions of older adults have smartphones and/or tablets and are receiving benefits from using them.

What if your senior loved one is not among them?

All individuals are unique so the fact that other seniors love their smartphones doesn’t mean yours will.

But it could be enough to justify giving it a try, giving them a chance?

This is not to say simply wrap a device up as a gift and give it to them to figure out on their own. Maybe the most valuable part of a device gift is including your time to help set it up, help them learn to use it, and let them get an initial taste of the benefits to come.

Remember, it’s not about adding your loved one to the statistics but improving their lives, both now and in the future. A positive experience with a smartphone or tablet could improve the likelihood your senior’s elder years are enhanced by technology solutions to come.

That prospect is exciting to us!

2 Responses to Because They’ll Use Them: Reason to Give Seniors Smartphones & Tablets

  1. We have been working in this space since 2009 with our product called SeeYouLink. We have a client in the UK ( Six Point Foundation) who support holocaust survivors. This is a group in their 80’s and 90’s who had very little computer experience. Susan Cohen is the executive director of Six Point Foundation in London and is thrilled with her users experiences. This might make a great follow up and continued validation for your article. Keep up the good work in this area.

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