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9 Fascinating Facts about Senior Citizens and Technology

How do your parents (and grandparents) measure up?

by
Paula Bolyard

Bio

May 16, 2014 - 8:00 am
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62909-Seniors-Texting-Code

Recent surveys highlight the fact that seniors lag behind the younger generation in the adoption and usage of technology. Based on interviews with more than 1500 adults age 65 and over, Pew researchers found they could roughly divide senior citizens into two groups. The first group is “younger, more highly educated, or more affluent.” They are far more technologically connected and demonstrate more positive attitudes toward the benefits of the modern digital world. In fact, this group uses the internet at rates approaching — or even exceeding — the general population. The second group is “older, less affluent, often with significant challenges with health or disability.” They are less connected and more wary of the Brave New World of digital platforms. Internet use drops off dramatically after age 75.

Here are some other facts about seniors and technology use:

1. 59% of Seniors Use the Internet

In 2012, 59% of seniors were internet users, up six percentage points from the previous year. In 2014, 47% of seniors have a high-speed broadband connection at home and 77% have a cell phone (up from 69% in 2012). According to the Brookings Institute, seniors spend most of their time online communicating with friends, shopping, and searching for health information.

Senior Broadband Figure 1

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All Comments   (27)
All Comments   (27)
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I tend to think the characterization of seniors as Luddites should be relegated to urban myth. The Internet started coming into it's own in the 1990's so those who embraced it immediately are 20 years older. The largest group would be in their 40s and 50s, but that still leaves a lot of older folks who are at least somewhat connected, even just using e-mail to send the round-robin "letter" or photos of the latest grand- (or great-grand-) kids.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, please forgive me Paula, your article was very good and thoughtful. I thoroughly enjoyed read it and all of the comments. I think, that to many people tend to think, Senior Citizens are passed the age of either caring or doing technology. What the younger generation does not understand, it is the Senior Citizen that were the individuals, who developed the technology, that is used today. Senior Citizens are no "dumber" than today's generation ... We are simply older, is all. :)
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, here comes yet, another Senior Citizen Techie! I'm 70 years old and did not go to College, though I did go to Surgical Technology School and am a Certified Surgical Technologist, who worked for over 25 years, in Main Surgery, from the West Coast to the East Coast.

I got my first compute in Sept. 1996. I had been really interested in what anyone could do with a computer, for several years, by that time. I had lots of problems with my first computer. It was not made, that well. I finally, figured out ... Instead, of spending $$$ for repairs or advice ... I could learn to do it myself. So, I went on the journey of "self learning", of how to fix and repair computers. Along the way, I also learned about software.

To date, I have built from scratch ... 12 computers. All of them, have been for either me or family members. I don't think, that is too bad, for someone who was age, 53 to start learning, do you? I have also, repaired or tweaked family or friends computers, during this whole time. It has only been in the past year or so, that I haven't been doing computer stuff, like I use to. Instead, of going to the houses to do tweaking, I now use Team Viewer. Boy, it that a lot easier, than going from house to house and a good savings, on gas.

I have a good broadband connection, to the Internet and have since, March 2000, when I installed my first DSL component, on my computer. Back then, my connection was only a 1.5 mpbs and boy, did I think I was smokin'!!! Today, my broadband is at 24 mpbs, and I could go higher, but, this is fine for downloading movies, for my DirecTV and my computer. In my humble opinion, it really is stupid to have mega broadband speeds, when the various trunks are extremely busy, you only get the speed, that is available. So, I am at a happy medium and LOVE it!!!

I also, have a SmartPhone. I love it. My daughters can do more, with their SmartPhones, but, that is fine. I do what I need to do and know, what I need to know. I have excellent Anti-Virus protection, since, I have an Android phone and I also, have excellent Malware protection. I am the one, who has taught her daughters to be careful and to protect, yourselves from bad stuff, on the Internet.

I have loved technology, for years ... Really starting with reading and watching Sci-Fi stuff, as a kid. I dreamt of going to the Moon, at age 7 and knew that it was possible. No, I never would have passed any of the courses, to be a Rocket Scientist, due to be very, very bad in Math. However, I still love the technology and science that got us, to the Moon and back.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
What I note on comment boards is that the percentage of thoughtful comments is pretty low. No different than the percentage of thoughtful comments made at a dinner party or cocktail party. The technology cannot change and will never be able to change the number of first rate minds relative to the general population. This is why I think the notion that more information being available to more people is somehow going to change/improve the world, i.e. save us, that's an illusion. Don't get me wrong, it's fun to surf the net, have the world at my fingertips and even bloviate about it on a comment thread. I just don't think it's "the solution," not remotely so. And, oh yes, I'm 72 -- unfrigginbelievable!
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
I officially entered 'senior-dom' a couple of years ago - I'll be 67 in Nov. My college background was in computer programming and mathematics - trouble is I'm not particularly detail oriented. But I managed.

I'm none too fond of face book and other social media - and seldom go there. I tell my kids friends and family if you want to talk to me you know the number - and you've got my email. I hate having a conversation with the whole world looking over my shoulder. Then there are the privacy concerns - seems people are just now catching on to that threat. Even if you are not on Face Book you're being tracked - unless you know how to use FireFox - it has anti-tracking software you can add to it.

I have a 'smart' cell phone - I ditched the land-line 10 years ago since I'm on the go a lot -golfing - motorcycling - fishing - photography and whatever else I might find interesting. My last day of work was the last time I wore a wristwatch Been retired for 11 years and have yet to miss it or the wristwatch - although I some times miss the money. I build my own computers - purpose built. My current one is an HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer) with a Blu-Ray ROM drive and one Blu-Ray writer. I also build for friends and family. I use FireFox on a Windows 7 computer. I love how FireFox is configurable. I like Linux but it seems its always changing - and there are so many iterations its hard to keep up with the latest but I suppose Ubuntu is among the best for the casual user. I may yet set up that dual boot Win7/Ubuntu. I was trained in COBOL FORTRAN BASIC and RPG-2 - my first job was operating an old Burroughs B1800 using COBOL. What a slug compared to the then quick as lightning IBM S38 line - which I wrote SQL on for a few years along with COBOL - and maintaining RPG programs until we could find the time to rewrite them in COBOL.

I first got online in 1994 with SpryNet. Remember that one? You had to write your own script for the dial-up to work!

Yeah - we seniors aren't very tech savvy compared to the youngsters!


27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
And for what its worth I have fiber optics - 'kind of fast' according to speedtest.com - I just ran a test - download speed was 92.44Mbps - upload was 95.03Mbps.

What a difference 20 years makes. My first modem was 28.8k. The 56k modem was a real speedster by comparison.

27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just to toss in another "senior" - my mother's cousin began working for NASA during the space race. He started out working out the "math" for getting our astronaut's back home from space - since then he's had quite a few interesting jobs and now works with programming the robotic arms in space.

I still remember being a kid in the 80's and him telling us how the computers he worked on in Houston would make a "phone call" to the computers in Florida and that they could talk to each other..... we'll all smiled and humored his crazy talk.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
My 88-year-old mother spends hours each day on her iPad reading news, watching videos and posting to her Facebook account. She says that without it she would feel isolated and alone.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
I suppose I enter official Seniordom this year as I turn 65 in September. I was writing simple apps, though the word didn't yet exist, in BASIC on a TRS-80 in the '70s, putting the State of Alaska's complex energy audit calculations on a Ti-58 card programmable calculator, and bought my first "real" personal/small business computer in '81 or so, a Northstar Advantage. The Northstar was all in one box and had an IBM Selectric-style keyboard- still one of the best I've ever used - it ran CPM with a 64K processor and a Winchester 5 mb hard drive. I had Wordstar, dBase II, and SuperCalc. As long as you knew what to do at an A: prompt and had the manual handy, you could do pretty much anything a business that employed smart, skillful people needed to do. To my mind everything since those days has been about making the computer more accessible to ever dumber people and to be able to use a dumber and cheaper workforce.

I entered the GUI world with a job with the USBIA where we had an early GUI system made by A B Dick in the mid-'80s. I don't remember much about it but I could make it work. Bought my first Windows machine, an IBM PC in 90 or 91 and continuously upgraded it with more RAM, a new chip, ever-faster modems. I've owned every version of Windows through Windows 8. At work I helped spec and install the first LAN in State government using those little square Mac SEs to replace the old text editor on the mainframe terminals we were using to write memos, briefs, and such and transmit them to the "Word Processing Pool" to edit and finalize. That typing pool was Heaven for a single man if he didn't mind the prospect of buying braces for a kid(s) whelped off some other man. It was gone by the mid-90s. Went through "wiring" a State and State government in the '90s as well as wiring my own house and getting cable modem service when it became available in backwater Juneau sometime in the '90s. And somewhere in there I just lost interest with even keeping up and certainly lost interest in doing the "beta development' for a lot of companies that threw a lot of half-a**ed crap on the market. I also got very spoiled by having an IT staff at my beck and call at work and being able to just call the computer service company to keep things up at home. I'm sitting in front of a mid-pack, seven year-old Dell running Office O6 but with Firefox rather than IE8. It's replacement has been in the living room for a couple of weeks but I haven't gotten around to hassling with installing it.

I've had a cell phone since the mid-90s. I had one of the first Blackberry devices available in the State. After I retired I soon ditched the Blackberry because I simply had no need to be that accessible and I wasn't that important, never was really. We won WWII, sent men to the moon, and won - at least temporarily - the Cold war without a single cell phone! Texting is largely for illiterate children who can't spell real words or write complete sentences. Twitter is stupid, but then so are most of the people who use it; a thought containing more than 160 characters from most of those people is a truly frightening prospect. I have an iPhone 5C, but I've never bothered to set it up for internet access. I use Facebook because I have family, friends, and associates all over the Country and its and easy way to keep up with them.

I don't care about either computers or cell phones any more than I care about the hammer in the bottom drawer of the kitchen cabinet or the jack in the trunk of the car; if either one were called for, I'd likely just call somebody else to do the work. I think it is simply silly to define your life by what device you have sticking out of your ear. Very few people have anything important to say or do, so why the urgency and constant communication. I think most people under 40 or so would go into some sort of psychic shock if they were deprived of their phone for 2 hours. I watch the young'uns at work when they go on break or to lunch and the second they're inside that breakroom door, they're dialing desperately. What for?

And one final thought, most of us old dinosaurs were brought up doing quaint stuff like reading, even reading and following instructions; that's why we can find jobs and those kewell high-tech kids with the iPads can't. There hasn't been a decent end-user manual produced for an electronic product in decades. Even the aftermarket manuals are barely comprehensible. Consequently, much of learning a new device is simply trial and error, something which we process and rule-driven older folks don't like. Illiterate children are used to thinking in pictures and working by pointing at pictures and Apple knows their market.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bravo! for your last paragraph!

What IS it about the baffling jibber-jabble in these computer manuals and instruction sheets? I've found that what's so archly glossed over, even omitted, is generally a vital point.

There's simply no communication with the paying customer. That's "cool"? Why do we put up with this?

Is it that these computer "programmers" are so immersed inside the insular and truncated "vocabulary" of their coded world that they've arrogantly shoved aside English sentence structure as being "so yesterday"?

Are these computer manufacturers' marketing departments completely under the thrall of these programmers?

It would appear so.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
My son (college Senior) has my grandmother's TRS-80 - still runs like a champ!
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am really enjoying these stories of seasoned citizens who are techies! Thanks for sharing!
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
My only complaint as a member of the Three Score and Ten brigade is that the latest technology is not intuitive to be tackled alone without some introduction; and that is from someone who went it alone programming and debugging mainframes in the 60s.
The "hieroglyphics" of today's implements need a dictionary to make them more senior friendly.
Got a message from some youngster with 'something' that made me think I was getting the finger when all he was trying to do was draw attention to a particular number.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
So nice to see the commenters here whose parents/grandparents are up on tech. My Mom will be 85 next month & uses her cell phone fror both talk & text. She's been online for over 10 years & uses eMail & Facebook daily to stay in touch with family & friends. She called today to tell me that Google Fiber was just installed in her neighborhood & she is considering upgrading to it.
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
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