As we often hear and read, the senior (65+) population is growing rapidly, more so than any other age group.
What you may not realize is that the number of senior family caregivers is also rising rapidly.
One in five adult caregivers, or more than 8 million in all, are seniors, according to the 2015 report Caregiving in the US from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving.
Yet we seldom — if ever — see any research that considers the needs of older caregivers.
Even a recent report from the Consumer Technology Association, which we feel has been making real strides in consideration of older adults in their research, capped the age on the “caregivers” segment of their study at 64.
Given all of this, it was particularly gratifying to us that half of the responses to our recent technology survey were from seniors who consider themselves to be caregivers.
We feel the insights from and needs of these senior caregivers are important enough to merit a closer look on their own.
What the Survey Is — and Isn’t
This survey was conducted to provide us insight into our readership for purposes of planning our future technology coverage. As such, we make no claims that it is a statistically valid sampling of family caregivers — or even of those who visit Senior Care Corner®.
It is, though, an indication of the opinions of those in our audience who were kind enough to take the time to tell us what they think.
That is important to us and very much appreciated.
We also understand and will take into account that those who responded to the survey — and those who visit Senior Care Corner overall — are already, at a minimum, using the technology needed to connect to the web and may be more attuned to tech than other older adults and family caregivers.
Now that we have an understanding, onto the results of the survey.
The following survey results reflect those respondents who were 65+ and identified as family caregivers.
Question 3: Respondents Level of Tech Use
We were somewhat surprised to see just over half of the senior caregivers consider themselves to be avid users of digital technology, slightly more than the younger survey respondents.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, since tech users may have been more likely to respond to our online survey, but it is inconsistent with the widely held perception seniors and tech are not a good mix.
Then again, we have been saying for a while that perception is wrong.
Question 4: Respondents Role with Technology
As the chart below reflects, the senior caregiver survey respondents reflect a broad range of experience and roles with technology in their homes.
Just about half of those responding indicated they are the primary purchasers and implementers of technology in their own homes, as well as the troubleshooters, with a fair number indicating they have the same role in the homes of others.
The flip side is that about half of the respondents rely on someone else to take the lead on technology in their homes.
These responses tell us we have to keep in mind the full range of roles in our technology reporting.
Question 5: Areas of Concern with Technology
With 2 of 5 senior caregivers listing it, in line with respondents overall, data privacy is clearly the greatest technology concern. There is good reason for that, of course, but security concerns do not seem to have deterred them from using tech.
Interestingly, these caregivers are a third less likely to say technology costs too much than are younger respondents. They are also less than half as likely to feel tech is too complicated.
Given their responses, including the 1 in 4 who have no concerns, senior caregivers should be on the radar of tech companies.
This is not to ignore the data privacy issue, which we all share. We plan to respond to the survey feedback by providing more information on safe and secure use of digital technology.
Question 6: Respondents’ Technology Interest Areas
While senior caregivers expressed interest in learning more about the full range of technologies in the survey, their interests were clearly focused in the areas of smartphones and tablets, home health devices, and home security. These are the areas that are currently the most developed of the tech areas and provide readily-identifiable benefits to both senior caregivers and those for whom they care.
Given that senior caregivers express receptivity to using tech overall, it may be they will need only to see a demonstration of the benefits of other technologies for their interest to rise. We will continue reporting on these areas to give them a chance to decide for themselves.
Question 7: Respondents’ Learning Preferences
This question was very important to us in planning our future delivery of information on Senior Care Corner, as we want to present information in a way that is preferred by our audience and therefore most beneficial to them.
Senior caregivers expressed clear preferences for information communicated in written articles and video. According to these responses, our podcast was not the best way to reach this older group.
The senior caregivers’ preference for articles and videos is consistent with what younger respondents told us, while the seniors’ interest in podcasts and webinars was much lower.
What We Learned from Senior Caregivers
While we are keeping in mind the survey is not scientific, we can’t help but be excited about the responses from the senior caregivers.
Clearly there are many in this group who are both users of technology and interested in learning more. We plan on continuing to feed their interest with our tech coverage with practical insights that will provide benefits for both them and those for whom they care.
Also in mind is the reality there are likely other senior caregivers who did not respond and whose need to see technology’s benefits may be even greater. Hopefully we will get their feedback over time.
We hope the positive response to technology of senior caregivers is also being noticed by the tech companies, which will hopefully be further motivated to develop solutions to the problems of this group and demonstrate the benefits of those solutions.
Senior Care Corner looks forward to learning about those solutions and keeping you up to date!