Smart phones, smart TVs, tablets — you name it: Americans age 50-plus are embracing technology. A new AARP survey finds older adults are not only increasing their spending on technology, they would buy even more of it if devices were geared to their needs.
This year, the average adult age 50-plus expects to spend $912 on tech purchases, up 11% from 2021 ($821) and a 130% rise from 2019 ($394), according to a national online poll of about 3,000 Americans conducted last fall.
Nearly eight in 10 respondents say technology has become an integral part of their life, and they use it frequently to connect with loved ones. The need to replace or upgrade items for the home prompted more than seven in 10 to make a tech purchase in 2022.
Room to Grow the Market
Older adults have an appetite for more tech, but many find it difficult to learn and navigate. Indeed, 68% of those 50-plus do not believe today’s technology is designed with them in mind.
While cost and data privacy are concerns, respondents most often say it’s the complexity of devices, software and hardware, as well as the lack of clear benefit, that makes them hesitant to buy, the AARP survey shows.
Still, tech ownership and use are high among older Americans. The survey finds 86% own a smart phone, 70% have a smart TV, 59% use a tablet, 31% have a home assistant, 28% own a wearable device, and 24% have a smart home-tech device.
To stay in touch with others, 94% text, 88% email, 74% are on social media, and 67% video chat.
The most popular social media platforms among adults 50 and over are Facebook and YouTube. Use of Instagram increased from 24% in 2021 to 28% in 2022 among this age group; TikTok use also rose, from 10% to 15%.
More than 80% engage in at least some form of streaming for entertainment, and 65% do so on a smart TV. Regular use of daily streaming is significantly up among older Americans: About 35% of those age 50 and over stream daily, compared to 29% last year.
While Americans love their technology as a way to stay connected, consume entertainment and shop, the AARP research indicates that those over age 50 are also increasingly open to using it to support their well-being. About one in five say they are interested in using health apps for meditation, eliminating bad habits, or improving sleep.
Caregivers also see promise in the benefits of tech, according to the survey. Among those age 50-plus caring for loved ones, more than half (52%) are interested in tech to help them with their caregiving needs.
The most popular home-tech safety devices encourage independence and safety, such as doorbell cameras. Other items that garner interest include home alarms and small electronic devices to turn off items.
Need to Address the Information Gap
Lack of information about what tech to use often keeps consumers from leveraging technology-based solutions for health and wellness, AARP discovered. While 24% of those 50-plus see doctors as a good resource, only 9% are getting information from them about using tech to improve their health.
The AARP results reflect a need to educate older consumers on the available tech, how it will benefit them, where to get it, and how to use it. Considering the potential barriers to tech adoption facing older consumers, the research suggests they need to be convinced that the product is easy to use and to clearly understand the benefits.
When deciding what to buy, respondents say they rely on personal research (25%), recommendations from friends and family (17%), and in-store or online promotions (15%); for others seamless integration or interoperability with other tech devices influences them (13%).
The AARP tech survey was conducted online between September 23 and October 6, 2022 in English and Spanish. The survey sampled 2,979 adults, weighted to reflect the range of demographics about U.S. adults age 18-plus and age 50-plus.
Kakulla, Brittne. 2023 Tech Trends and the 50-Plus. Washington, DC: AARP Research, January 2023. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00584.001
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