The old adage that you shouldn’t post anything on online that you wouldn’t want your mother to see, should now also include your grandmother.
More senior citizens are online than ever before. More than half of Americans age 65 and older have broadband internet at home, 67% of seniors use the internet, and 42% of this group have smartphones, up from 18% four years ago, according to a report from Pew Research Center.
It appears that seniors have embraced technology. Through a series of phone surveys of 3,015 adults conducted between Sept. 29 and Nov. 6, 2016, Pew found that 58% of seniors believe technology has made a positive impact on society, and about 75% say they are online almost every day. So take a moment before you post something in haste on social media, because your parents — or grandparents — might be watching. Pew found 34% of seniors use sites like Facebook or Twitter TWTR, +1.45% to share news and information and connect with family and friends. And they are avid users: 70% of older adults who use Facebook FB, -1.04% log in daily.
“As everyday tasks from banking to getting news to getting health information go online, our 65-plus population is growing,” says Monica Anderson, a research associate at Pew. “Seniors have long been late adopters to technology, but they are marching toward a more digitally connected life. That all dovetails with the fact that a lot of the things we used to do in person are now done online.”
This is an important and growing demographic: There are 46 million seniors in the U.S., making up 15% of the population. By 2050, 22% of Americans will be 65 and older, Pew says, citing U.S. Census Bureau projections.
The study comes at a time of both anxiety and optimism about aging in America. Advances in medical care and healthier lifestyles are allowing people to live longer — and often better — lives, while at the same time a wave of recent research has found that people have not saved enough for retirement (some estimates say retirees need 10 times their salary in savings stashed away) and health care expenses (which is pegged at $350,000 out of pocket in the retirement years).
A similar ambivalence is shown in the Pew study. While seniors appear to be eager adopters of technology, an educational and economic divide exists among that group that mirrors what we see across all age groups.
“There’s a chasm within the senior population that you see within the general population. Seniors who are younger, affluent and highly educated are going online,” says Anderson. “When you look at people who are 80-plus, lower income, or those with just a high-school diploma, they are far less likely to use this technology.”