Technology is already a central part of life for older Americans, and the connection with their devices is only expected to grow. By the year 2030, nearly 132 million Americans age 50 and older will spend upwards of $84 billion a year on technology products, a new AARP survey projects.
Today, 91 percent of those age 50+ report using a computer and 94 percent say technology helps them keep in touch with friends and family. And notably, the assumption that older individuals rely less on technology than others may be increasingly inaccurate. More than 80 percent of Americans age 50 to 64 have smartphones, which is about the same as the population at large. Grandparents are also spending a considerable amount on gifts — many likely tech-focused — for their grandkids.
More than 55 million Americans age 50+ are interested in technology that can enrich their lives or make it easier. One area in which that kind of interest surfaced in the survey is in driving and cars. Nearly 1 in 4 view advanced driver assistance technology as important, according to the survey. Older Americans have a strong future purchase interest for vehicles with advanced features such as automatic parking, emergency braking, lane change detection, and collision avoidance.
As for technology in home life, about half of older Americans own a smart TV (defined as one that is digital and Internet connected) and 9 million more plan to buy one within the year. The popularity of home assistants, such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa, is growing. The survey finds nearly 1 in 7 Americans over 50 own such a device.
More than ever, technology is becoming a medium for education, and that trend has significant implications for lifelong learning. The survey shows that 23 percent of older adults are embracing technology-enabled lifelong learning by taking online classes for certificates or degrees, in addition to how-to tutorials. About 13 percent of adults over 50 say they use virtual reality technology; while that number remains modest, it is nevertheless up four percentage points from the previous year.
Privacy and security issues remain a concern for many in the older age bracket, with Americans over 50 not placing much trust in institutions to keep their personal data safe. AARP finds fewer than 1 in 4 trust online retailers, the federal government, and telecom service providers, among others. A related finding, meanwhile, highlights an opportunity to provide more education to older adults specifically on safe tech practices: Nearly 1 in 5 indicates they have low confidence in their safety online.
The 15-minute survey was conducted online in late November 2018. It included a sample of 1,546 Americans age 50 and older, weighted for demographics, using Knowledge Panel from the global market research firm Ipsos. For more information, contact Brittne Nelson Kakulla at firstname.lastname@example.org. For media inquiries, contact email@example.com.
Kakulla, Brittne Nelson. 2019 Tech Trends and the 50+. Washington, DC: AARP Research, January 2019. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00269.001