Link∙age Connect Releases 2019 Technology Survey

CAST | May 16, 2019 | by Donna Childress

Study finds smartphones, smart TVS, and smart speakers are hot, yet limited interest in new technology among older adult consumers.

Smartphones, smart TVs, and smart speakers are the hot items among respondents in a new study by Link∙age Connect. Survey respondents show increased Wi-Fi access and internet usage. Approximately 70% are willing to buy technology and are upgrading products such as television, tablet, and mobile phone. 

Yet respondents noted low interest in new technologies. The 2019 Technology Survey of older adults age 55-100 also found that far fewer older adults in affordable housing own devices or have Wi-Fi access. Report authors identified several low-tech approaches, such as helping older adults simplify their lives, as opportunities for tech developers.

The nationwide study explored ownership and technology use in three categories:

  • Communication and entertainment.
  • Safety and security.
  • Health and wellness. 

Results shared data by 1,105 participants age 55 and older, with 208 respondents representing the affordable housing segment. Link∙age Connect, based in Cincinnati, OH, also conducted studies on older adults’ technology use in 2016 and 2011.

Overall Findings

  • Interest in learning about new technologies is limited. While the respondents report owning many of the common technologies today, such as smartphones, tablets, PCs, and laptops, most reported having no interest in learning about new technologies across the three categories surveyed. Instead, they are more likely to keep the device that already works for them.
    This finding remains consistent with past Link∙age Connect research that showed people simplify their lives as they age, allowing more time for personal interaction and less time for things that take away from time with family and friends. This situation will provide great challenges for companies that continue to automate their services, said the report.
  •  The biggest barriers to adoption are technology’s complexity and cost. Another barrier is having no easy way to learn new technologies.
  •  More people have smart TVs. Ownership of smart TVs has increased significantly over the past couple of years, possibly due to market availability. The finding is consistent with past Link∙age Connect research that older adults will continue to replace and upgrade TVs regardless of age, finances, or tech savvy.
  • Those with higher income are more likely to have Wi-Fi. Just over three quarters of respondents reported having Wi-Fi in their homes. This usage is consistent across all age segments from 55-100, yet there is nearly a 60% difference in Wi-Fi accessibility in the homes of higher-income brackets vs. lower. 

Communication and Entertainment Technologies

Survey results revealed these insights on the use of communication and entertainment technologies:

  • Device ownership continues to grow, yet spending on and interest in new technologies is low. In this category, all age groups own many devices. Ownership continues to grow year-over-year, including among people well into their later years. More than 60% of respondents aged 55 to 64 own a tablet, as do more than 50% of respondents aged 65 to 79.
  • Smartphone ownership continues to grow more rapidly than other technologies. The biggest jumps are in the 70-84 age group. Compared to the 2016 Link∙age Connect study, smartphone ownership grew 27% among those aged 70-79 and 38% among those aged 80-84. Nearly 90% of respondents aged 55 to 64 own smartphones. That number is 80% among adults aged 70 to 79. The lack of supply of older phone models may be a contributing factor.
  • Wi-Fi access and internet usage continues to climb. About 50% of respondents spend an average of one to three hours per day on the internet, with this number rising to about 60% in the 75-89 age bracket. Respondents’ top tasks are research/travel/current events; online shopping; banking and bill pay.
  • Far fewer in the affordable housing group own devices or have Wi-Fi. Fewer own smartphones (51% versus 80% among all respondents), tablets (26% versus 68%), and laptops (25% versus 69%) or have Wi-Fi in their homes (33% versus 90%).

Safety/Security Technologies

The report highlighted these key results:

  • Interest in smart speakers is high. Smart speakers saw the most interest in ownership, with 22% owning a smart speaker. Another 17% are interested in buying one. Smart speakers were not widely available in the 2016 survey. 
  • Medical and home monitoring attract less interest. About half of respondents do not own a medical alarm pendant, home alarm system, panic button, or home activity monitoring system—and are not interested in owning one.

Health and Wellness Technologies

Except for fitness trackers, most respondents showed little interest in learning about or buying health and wellness technologies. Respondents perceived these technologies as having to do with healthcare. Those who have these technologies learned about them from their healthcare professional, and someone else paid for them—private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.

Opportunities

The report authors said that companies can better sell to older consumers in these ways:

  • Establish trust with older adults.
  • Offer opportunities for personal contact, not a fully automated transaction.
  • Recognize older adults’ frugality, that they will spend money to enhance their lifestyle or stay independent longer.
  • Help older adults simplify their lives.
  • Provide accessible, hands-on training.