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Health and Caregiving Among the 50+: Ownership, Use and Interest in Mobile Technology

This study examined the ownership, usage, and interest in hand-held mobile technology among the 50+ population and focused especially on whether people 50+ take mobile devices with them when they leave home, and their current usage or interest in using mobile devices to manage their health or the health of someone 50+ they assist.

This survey shows that cell phones are the mobile technology of choice among people age 50+. While cell phones could be a productive means of communicating with this audience there are some mixed findings about respondents’ receptivity about how they are used. While a minority of the 50+ currently use a mobile technology to track their health, a substantial proportion are at least somewhat interested in doing so. Interest waned, however, when we asked about using mobile technology to share health information with a health care professional, tracking one’s location with a GPS, and using mobile technology to motivate or adopt healthy behaviors. The results show caregivers’ interest also varies.

Other key findings include:

  • The majority of people age 50+ own some type of mobile technology (89%) and nearly eight out of ten (79%) people report owning a cell phone. Laptop or tablet computer come in second place (42%) followed by, portable media players (16%), hand-held global positioning systems (15%), smart phones (7%), and portable electronic book readers (3%). More than four in five (87%) mobile technology owners say that when they leave their home they usually take a hand-held device with them.
  • Not surprisingly, cell phones are the most frequently mentioned mobile device that respondents say they take with them when they leave home (88%). Smart phones are a distant second again, based on vastly lower rates of smart phone ownership (7%).
  • One in five (20%) adults say they provide assistance to someone age 50+ with activities of daily living (ADLs) and three in ten (30%) say they provide assistance to someone age 50+ with instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). Among people who provide assistance to someone age 50+ with ADLs or IADLs, about one in six (17%) say they currently use any mobile technology to help track the health of the person they help. Not surprisingly, among those who currently use any mobile technology to track the health of the person they help, the vast majority (89%) report  using a cell phone or mobile phone to accomplish this task, and about one-third (34%) report they currently use a laptop or table computer to do the same.

This online survey was done by Knowledge Networks between October 13-20, 2010, among adults aged 50 and older. For more information, please contact the author, Linda Barrett, at 202-434-6197.

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