Incorporating the Aging Population into the Digital World

Incorporating Accessibility into the SDLC
June 2, 2015
Kiosk and Website Requirements
June 16, 2015

The elders of America’s population have historically been late to the technology party compared to their younger compatriots, but their movement into digital life continues to deepen. It’s not surprising that the need for seniors to utilize different types of technology is small and sometimes nonexistent, but if we look closely, we can see the digital divide is beginning to narrow. There are instances where certain part of this segment of the population has begun to explore the world of technology in a new way.

When you begin to look at the senior population and its usage of different types of technology, two separate segments develop. The first (which leans toward younger, more highly educated, or affluent seniors) has relatively substantial technology assets, and also has a positive view toward the benefits of online platforms. The other (which tends to be older and less affluent, often with significant challenges with health or disability) is largely disconnected from the world of digital tools and services, both physically and psychologically.


As the internet plays an increasingly central role in connecting Americans of all ages to news and information, government services, health resources, and opportunities for social support, these divisions are noteworthy – particularly for the many organizations and individual caregivers who serve the older adult population. Although, as we stated earlier, that division is growing smaller, because in a Pew Research Survey in 2012 found that more than half of older adults (those ages 65 or older) were internet users. In 2013, 59% of seniors report that they go online – a six-percentage point increase in the course of a year – and 47% say that they have a high-speed broadband connection at home. In addition to those 2013 numbers, 77% of older adults have a cell phone, up from 69% percent in 2012. Despite these gains, seniors continue to lag behind younger Americans when it comes to tech adoption. And many seniors remain largely unattached from online and mobile life – 41% do not use the Internet at all, 53% do not have broadband access at home, and 23% do not use cell phones.


It’s not surprise that older adults face several hurdles that must be jumped with adopting a new technology. Facing several unique barriers and challenges when it comes to adopting new technologies, older Americans are more likely to give up on the use of these services. Many physical conditions or health issues can make it difficult to use new technologies. Around two in five seniors indicate that they have a “physical or health condition that makes reading difficult or challenging” or a “disability, handicap, or chronic disease that prevents them from fully participating in many common daily activities. Older adults who do not currently use the Internet are divided on the question of whether or not that lack of access hurts them or not. Half of these non-users agree that they could be at a disadvantage because of the information they may be missing out on, but a portion of the older non-internet users disagree that they are missing out on important information.


Those things aside, once a senior joins the technological world, their lives are never the same and they become instantly connected with an integral part of their lives. Despite some of the unique challenges facing the older adult population when it comes to technology, most seniors who become Internet users make visiting the digital world a regular occurrence. Among older adults who use the Internet, 71% go online every day or almost every day.

Although some of these users have a predisposed opinion about the world of technology, that negative approach is slowly declining. More and more seniors are embracing the world of Internet connections and smart phones every day. As we move forward in the world of technology, it is important for all age ranges to embrace everything that technology has to offer, and we continue to diminish the digital division in our world.