The Elderly are becoming more tech-savvy with smartphones

On a recent train journey to London I had a rather heart-warming experience whilst sat next to a group of elderly ladies. They had a paper map, stuck together, and were planning their day trip to the city. They happily discussed where to go, what to see first and then had a laugh about whether the Queen would be in residence.

After some sneaky alcohol, cleverly hidden in flasks, the conversation moved on and I thought how fantastic it was to see them using their smartphones so well. One lady had her list of “house jobs” on a list app whilst the other had an app which showed all her local bus timetables..

I always use this. I’m not one for taxis. Too expensive. This app knows where I am and when the next bus is. I don’t need to worry about a thing.

To see her using it to aid here independence was a fantastic thing. I like the fact that they were using the modern and quite complicated smartphones that we all use, however many other modern devices and the Internet simply aren’t that intuitive for senior citizens. Basic activities most of us take for granted, like opening an email or simply browsing the web, don’t make a lot of sense and can even be intimidating to some – especially if they are trying to do something on a computer with a mouse and a keyboard.

However, after seeing this, it’s apparent that smartphones are proving more popular that traditional laptops and PC’s. This trend inspired the team at MedAlertHelp, a company that reviews medical alert systems, to take a look at how the elderly interact with technologies in this day and age.

Use of smartphones among the retired has surged over the past year, which both challenges stereotypes and proves that smartphones are a lot simpler to use than computers. Plus, many experts agree that wishing to stay close with family and friends has played a major role in the fact that the elderly are using smartphones more than ever.

Facebook, Skype, and similar pieces of software that offer communication completely independent of geographical limitations have greatly contributed to the increased use of smartphones among the elderly. The older demographics are discovering the benefits of social media to connect them with people who matter in their lives, but studies also show that they like buying stuff on e-commerce platforms, looking up health-related information and accessing government services. As you can see, when it comes to using smartphones to make everyday life simpler and more convenient, seniors are simply no longer that far behind the young.

Of course, smartphone ownership amongst the elderly varies substantially by age: 59% of 65 to 69-year-olds own smartphones, but that share falls to just over 49% among 70 to 74-year-olds. After that point, smartphone adoption drops off considerably. About 31% of 75 to 79-year-olds say they own smartphones, while a mere 17% of those aged 80 and older are smartphone owners.

As you can see, times are changing, and they are bringing some new standards along with them. While it’s still hard to deny the existence of a digital divide (especially between those on the two opposite sides of the 75-year-old mark), the elderly are definitely closing the gap. This difference will only get smaller as older adults continue to age. Furthermore, many experts agree that we’ll see a snowball effect as seniors who know how to use the technology share that learning with their peers of the same or similar age.

The infographic here primarily focuses on how the elderly interact with the internet, the backbone of modern devices. While it does not dismiss the noticeable difference between the young and the old when it comes to utilizing the web, the infographic shows that elders are making steady progress and that we should expect to see more of the same down the line.