Get Ready for a Healthy Wave of Tech Innovations

When was the last time you saw an ad for a new smartphone or tablet—or almost anything, for that matter—that depicted anyone over the age of 55 benefiting from tech innovations in a comfortable, natural way?

The lingering myth of the tech-averse “senior” is one of the most common stereotypes linked to the older population, even if it is, finally—and slowly—beginning to fade away. But is this stereotype unfair?

New research suggests the answer to this question is a definite yes.

Recently, marketing firm Age of Majority tapped its large online panel of consumers age 55 or older (consisting of adults called “Active Agers”—people who are digitally, socially, physically, and mentally active) to get a digital lay of the land, so to speak, of how people 55+ are actually using technology.

Are they overwhelmed by the ever-increasing connectivity and sophistication of devices? Is technology making inroads into their lives?

In its survey, the company found that more than two-thirds of Active Agers are made up of either “Early Adopters” of tech (5%) or a group called “Everyday Embracers,” (65%) which consists of people who like using popular mainstream forms or technology in everyday life. The other roughly one-third of this audience is made up of “Reluctant Users” (27%)—those who use technology to get by but aren’t particularly wowed by it—and people the company refers to as “Old Schoolers” (the only 3% who really shun technology).

More Myth-Shattering Numbers:

  • 91% of Active Agers use smart phones.
  • 89% use computers.
  • 58% have smart TVs.
  • 54% have tablets.
  • 34% use wearable tech.
  • Nearly a quarter (24%) use smart speakers.

If you’re a member of the 55+ population, these findings likely won’t come as a huge surprise. After all, you’ve grown up with technology. In many ways, you’ve had to adapt to the rapid pace of digital change as much as anyone, going from typewriters and dial phones in your childhood to computers and cordless phones in your youth, to the Internet as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled smart devices in your adult years. The electronic beat of innovation goes on every day, year after year.

Still, for Active Agers, their view of technology is not necessarily about having the latest gadgets to show off to friends; they very much see technology through a practical lens. As Age of Majority discovered in its study, this group is most likely to use technology when and where it offers an extension of or improvement on their pre-existing behaviors, such as shopping, banking, and watching videos. Fun fact: At least nine in ten Active Agers are now doing each of these things online.

Tech’s Strong Vital Signs

One of the fascinating trends to keep an eye on is the growing tech use among the older population, particularly in healthcare. The pandemic has only accelerated the benefits of connected tech for things like distance care, especially when it comes to addressing safety issues, serving those who are geographically isolated, or offering convenience by removing the need to physically visit a physician’s office. And even with how much everything has progressed, this trend is expected to continue.

Four out of ten (42%) respondents to the Age of Majority survey either use, plan to use, or are interested in using their devices to monitor the safety and security of a loved one (i.e., for fall detection or home security). Healthcare is also the area in which wearable tech innovations have made the greatest inroads into Active Agers’ lives, with nearly a quarter of respondents using wearable devices to manage their exercise routines and one in five (21%) using them to monitor vitals.

Source: Age of Majority survey with 763 members of its Revolution55 online community, conducted between February 22, and March 8, 2021.

It’s already common to see devices and apps that can monitor the ECG (electrophysiology) of your heart, measure blood oxygen saturation, serve as a thermometer, track blood pressure, monitor your sleep, test your gluten, measure glucose levels, and even monitor your brain activity. As we continue into the future, this list will only grow. The large capital investments being made by tech companies, consumer interest, and developing trends in distance care and self-monitoring all add up to what we expect will be many more innovations in devices and applications to help you manage your health.

Breaking the Mold

When we talk about the practical application of devices being a key factor in their acceptance and use by the older population, there are few better examples than those found in healthcare.

New research, like the Age of Majority survey, is finally helping put the ageist stereotype of the tech-challenged senior to bed for good. It’s a reality our readers likely already know based on their own experience and that of friends, family, or colleagues.

As tech becomes increasingly interwoven into all aspects of our lives, we should be ready for a constant wave of innovations that will change the way we use our smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, computers—and whatever else!

Who knows? The advertising world may even start taking notice of older consumers and begin accurately depicting their willingness to embrace what’s new—and practical.