Connected Seniors – Proving the Web is a Destination for All Ages

We believe there are great benefits for our senior loved ones who get more connected with technology.

Many have done just that and are using the internet and the latest tech devices to find information, connect with people, view family photos, get coupons, travel, offer expertise in specific communities, volunteer, and stay mentally engaged as they socialize.

Family caregivers want their seniors to get connected, as many boomers have already done. They know that their senior loved ones can improve their mental health, reduce their isolation and hopefully avoid depression by engaging online.

There are benefits in being more involved with family members and friends who may be at a distance. Building a peer network online via social media can be uplifting for many seniors.

Learning something new, interacting with their community, even participating in the senior center remotely via the internet can really add some joy to their day!

Knowing how today’s boomers currently interact online so that family caregivers can mirror some of their success will help guide us when we try to get our own senior started.

Boomers Going Online

Many people feel technology adoption is largely for the younger generation. One poll (Fifty Plus Booms Online) conducted by McAfee security in 2013 of current internet users reported that those over 50 were spending, on average, five hours and forty two minutes a day on the internet. Surprisingly, of that group, those 62-75 spent four hours and thirty six minutes online.

No, it’s not just for the young!

The Pew Research Institute found that 47% of seniors have broadband at home.

Another study, conducted in 2013 by Ipsos and Google, found that seniors over 65 spent only 30 more minutes watching TV than they spent online. Boomers actually spent more time on the web than TV time.

What are they doing when they spend so much time online?

  • Online banking: 8 in 10 accessed their bank account, 75% paid bills online
  • Shopping: 9 in 10 bought something online, to the tune of $7 billion
  • Couponing: Groupon was used by 35% of those 55+, compared to 43% of 35-54 year olds as of October 2014, 40% search online for coupons
  • Information: 2/3 of seniors got news and weather on the internet
  • Twitter: 1 in 5 twitter users are over 50
  • Social media: 1 in 3 online seniors use social media
  • Facebook: 49% of online seniors have a Facebook account
  • Travel: Seniors comprise 70% of online spending for luxury travel, 8 in 10 older users plan and book travel online
  • Accessing health information
  • Watching TV and videos
  • Video chat with Skype or FaceTime
  • Writing blogs or books

The boomers who were asked reported experiencing increased comfort doing these activities online, which is good to know since many older adults feel that security is a great barrier to online connections.

Security Online

Because so many boomers (45-64) and seniors (65+) are going online for a variety of reasons, security is a concern especially for their family caregivers.

  • What are they doing?
  • With whom are they connecting?
  • Are they giving out private information or money?
  • Are they oversharing?

Facebook is the most popular social media site for seniors. Unfortunately, this opens them up to the opportunity to overshare, which could put them at risk for becoming victims.

Identity theft and fraud are real concerns, especially for our seniors who may be inadvertently oversharing personal information on the web on a daily basis.

Two out of three seniors surveyed admitted to sharing their contact information on social media. A third said they were comfortable sharing personal photos or personal data, including information about their significant others.

Also, half of seniors used an online dating site where they gave detailed personal information.

Trust in the sites they seek to provide them information varies among seniors. They tend not to trust pharmaceutical companies about drug information or health information but will readily seek out WebMD for their medical information. If a doctor recommends a pharma website, 6 in 10 seniors will then seek it.

How They Access the Web

There may be differences between seniors and younger internet users, not with what they do and the important benefits they reap from using the internet, but simply with the devices they use to access it.

Younger adults are using mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, more often than seniors. Seniors in the poll reported predominantly using either a desktop computer or laptop computer to do their online surfing.

Devices those over 50 were using:

  1. 53% used a desktop
  2. 35% used Laptops
  3. 6% used tablets
  4. 4% used smartphones

Tablets Versus Laptops

For many seniors who want to begin using the internet or taking advantage of even more than they have so far, using a tablet might be a way to encourage their internet use.

Many seniors find they have barriers to using a computer, including vision, dexterity, and overall ease of use.

Tablets can help because they are easier to navigate using large icons. Seniors can touch the screen to open apps. Better yet they don’t have to deal with a mouse, which can be confusing.

Some seniors may find it confusing to use a mouse, right clicking or double clicking can be frustrating. A computer often requires multiple steps to turn on, get connected, open apps or files and use. A tablet is much more straightforward to use.

And don’t underestimate the importance of portability. A tablet is much easier to carry and hold than a laptop computer due to weight and size.

Using a tablet with arthritic fingers or trembling hands is a bit easier than trying to manipulate a smartphone or a computer mouse for many seniors.

If family caregivers help to select and set up apps that are of interest to a senior loved one, show them how to use the apps and are there for troubleshooting support, a senior has been shown to feel more comfortable using a tablet and is more likely to be consistent using the internet.

Seniors Who Need a Helping Hand

The definition of aging, who is a boomer or a senior, is changing.

Gone are (or should be) the stereotypes that seniors aren’t interested in tech or find it incomprehensible.

Seniors and boomers are active – mentally and physically — for the most part. Unfortunately, not all are and family caregivers are bridging the gap for those seniors who need more support to gain benefits from technology and the internet.

Each older person is an individual with different talents and needs. Many boomers are already there, but many seniors are not and those are the ones who need help to navigate the digital world, set up their tech for them and teach them how to use it.

We applaud those boomers who worked with technology, feel it is a part of their daily life, and find themselves unable to imagine what it would be without their devices in the same way millennials do.

But we can’t overlook the many seniors who are yet unconnected to technology but could be getting benefits for their health and quality of life as they strive to live independently.

Helping them get there is a great role for family caregivers!

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