When many of us hear the term “senior citizen,” we picture an elderly woman knitting blankets or an older man in a recliner watching “The Price is Right.” But according to a recent survey conducted by Amica Senior Lifestyles, those stereotypes are far from accurate.
It turns out today’s seniors are into much of the same technology as younger generations, and are able to navigate smart devices, streaming apps and gaming systems just as well as the rest of us. In fact, out of the 1,203 North American older adults surveyed, 96% said they would describe themselves as at least somewhat tech-savvy.
Because family members often underestimate their loved one’s interest in technology, it’s important that caregivers understand these findings and how they may impact how you relate to the older adult in your life.
Staying connected through smartphones
It took a while for older adults to ditch their flip phones, but today’s seniors are jumping on the smartphone wagon faster than ever. When AARP researched how many seniors had smartphones in 2020, they found that 81% of those 60 to 69 have them, as well as 62% of those 70 and older. And of the seniors who responded to Amica’s recent survey, half of them have downloaded social media apps in the past year—quite a testimony to how much they enjoy staying connected to loved ones online.
Bruce Canales, digital marketing strategist at Amica Senior Lifestyles who headed up the research, said that even before the COVID pandemic, almost half of Americans over 65 used Facebook. The pandemic only drove this number up.
“We noticed a great increase in the use of social media among seniors during the pandemic,” he said. “More time was spent using video-based platforms to chat with family and friends, helping to maintain the sense of connection. For many, this progressed to the use of other apps and general tech. These platforms are typically designed for ease of use, so it has become the new normal.”
Gaming with the grandkids
Gone are the days when seniors had to wait until Saturday for their weekly Bingo fix. Now, they have access to thrilling games every day, whether it’s a game of Bingo on their phone or an interactive football game on Xbox. Of all the seniors surveyed by Amicon, more than 41% said they have downloaded mobile gaming apps, and more than 25% of them enjoy playing multiplayer games on a PC or console. Sports games were their top choice, closely followed by creative exercises like puzzles and word games. Whether they’re stimulating their brains playing solo or teaming up with grandkids in a live NFL match, today’s tech-savvy seniors are staying entertained.
Using TV for laughter
There’s a huge misconception that seniors only love to watch game shows, soap operas and home shopping networks. In fact, nearly half of the older adults surveyed said these shows are no fun. For their ultimate enjoyment, more than 63% actually prefer to watch comedies, and 35% enjoy romantic comedies. Considering that laughter has been proven to help people live longer, being able to access favorite funny shows any time of day is a huge benefit.
Music at their fingertips
Today’s seniors are no longer just listening to classic hits on the radio. Half of those with smartphones have downloaded a music app, which lets them listen to the genre of their choice, and nearly as many have watched live streams of their favorite musicians performing. Considering that music can lower blood pressure, reduce stress and relieve symptoms of depression, the ability to have 24/7 access to it is beneficial for all ages. But according to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, music can be especially beneficial for older adults because it helps control reasoning and emotion, reactivates areas of the brain to help retrieve stored memories, and also helps lay down new ones.
“We’ve found that seniors are generally quite surprised at the ease of access to entire libraries of online music, especially the older content,” Canales said. “Surprisingly, though, our survey found that ‘Pop’ was a more popular genre than ‘Classical,’ so seniors shouldn’t be expected to only listen to decades-old tracks.”
He pointed out that social sharing allows older adults to enjoy favorite tunes with friends and family, and even reminisce about the past.
Remember when your mom used to flip through catalogs in search of a Christmas dress? That’s probably no longer happening if she falls in the 34% of seniors who turn to social media for fashion inspiration. And not only are older adults browsing online for wardrobe ideas; nearly 25% of the apps used by seniors are for making purchases. This means instead of waiting for a ride to the mall or standing in line at the grocery store, they’re simply picking up their phones and placing orders on shopping apps like Amazon and Instacart. Whether it’s simply for convenience or because of poor mobility, technology is certainly making their lives easier.
“There’s no question that seniors are becoming more comfortable when it comes to making online purchases and sharing financial information via the web,” Canales said.
Even so, he mentioned many elderly loved ones typically require more in-depth guidance for added confidence in digital purchases, and should be monitored closely, especially due to the regularity of scams targeted at older web users.
Helping the senior in your life navigate technology
Next time you’re spending time with the senior in your life, don’t be afraid to discuss a new movie on Netflix or a game you’ve been enjoying on your phone. Research has proven they have some of the same interests you do, and talking about these things can provide a whole new way to connect. And keep in mind that if your loved one hasn’t yet discovered the technical things discussed here, they may enjoy being introduced to them. You may be surprised at just how fast they’re able to learn.