We have turned to digital technology at a record pace since the pandemic first sent shock waves through our lives. And while it was a hard and sometimes bitter transition, many of us have moved from using unfamiliar forms of technology as a necessity to gaining a comfort level with it.
AARP’s recently released “2022 Tech Trends and the 50-Plus” survey finds that many of the technology behaviors older adults adopted during the pandemic are here to stay. In fact, adults over 50 who answered our survey say they are continuing to expand their use of tech gadgets and services.
The significant increase in the use of smartphones and tablets recorded since COVID first became part of our lives in 2020 — for such activities as making online purchases, ordering groceries, banking, taking online classes and engaging in health services — continued in 2021. Older adults also increased their use of a wide variety of social media apps as they sought new ways to connect with others, pursue personal passions and be entertained. One of the primary drivers of older adults’ use of technology is the desire to stay connected with others. Video chat, a new concept for many when the pandemic began, is now a part of daily life for quite a few of us.
Our survey showed that about 3 in 10 older Americans are motivated to use technology to maintain their personal independence. Over one-third (35 percent) of people age 50-plus now own a voice-activated home assistant, up from 17 percent just two years ago. And nearly one-third (30 percent) own a wearable device, up from 17 percent in 2019.
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The pandemic also expanded interest in and reliance on smart home technology. Almost one-fourth now have it, up from 10 percent in 2019, and 28 percent use their smartphones to manage that technology. Moreover, learning how to use and manage smart home tech is a top interest of people 50 and over.
While nearly two-thirds of adults age 50 and up express an interest in new technologies, 2 in 5 do not feel technology is designed for all ages, citing its complexity, poor user experiences and insufficient training materials. Many continue to have concerns about trust and privacy, and more than half see the cost of high-speed internet as a problem.
A significant number of older Americans say they would use technology more often if they knew how. We can help. AARP offers a variety of resources for assisting people 50-plus to stay tech savvy and organize their digital lives. Many of these resources are available at AARP’s Personal Technology Resource Center. AARP has also joined forces with OATS (Older Adults Technology Services), a nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the power of technology to help older adults improve their lives.
Through its flagship program, Senior Planet, OATS from AARP offers free remote and in-person training so that older adults can gain the skills and confidence they need to use technology and stay connected.
It is becoming increasingly clear that people 50 and over embraced technology as never before during the pandemic and will continue to do so when we’re past COVID.
AARP can help you thrive in this brave new digital world.