Is Grandpa Tweeting?

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Older Adults and Technology UseIf your business sells or markets products or services to older Americans, you may think that you need to stick to traditional forms of advertising like billboards, flyers and mailers, radio ads, etc., and not social media, email or online ads. But it’s a lot more complicated than that, according to newly released data on adoption of technology by America’s seniors from the Pew Research Center.

In their research, “Older Adults and Technology Use,” they found two distinct groups of older Americans: one (that leans toward younger, more highly educated and more affluent seniors) that is relatively technologically-savvy and sees benefits in internet usage, and another group (which tends to be older and less affluent, often with significant challenges with their health or a disability), that is more disconnected from technologically physically and psychologically. So you’ve got two different groups with very different behaviors that you may be trying to reach.

As a whole, American seniors are lagging behind in their adoption of technology (but there is evidence that this is changing). Fifty nine percent of seniors are online (up from 53% last year) and 77% have cell phones (up from 69% the year before).

As mentioned above, younger, higher-income, and more highly educated seniors use the internet and broadband at rates closer to those seen in the general population; but then internet use and broadband adoption each drop off dramatically around age 75.

•    For those in their early 70s, 68% go online; that number falls to 47% for those 75-79 years old.
•    For seniors with annual household incomes over $75,000, 90% go online and in contrast, those with incomes less than $30,000, 39% go online.
•    Of those with college degrees, 87% go online; only 40% of those without college degrees go online.

Hurdles to adopting new technologies identified in the study include physical challenges (disabilities, handicaps or disease), skepticism about the benefits of technology and difficulties learning how to use new technologies. However, once seniors get online, digital technology becomes a part of their everyday lives; among those using the internet, 71% go online every day and 11% go online three to five times per week. This group also reports positive attitudes about the benefits and advantages of being able to find information online.

Other interesting findings:

•    Tablets are more common than smartphones for older Americans.
•    Of the total group, 27% seniors use social media. Among those who use the internet, 46% use social media. Women are more likely than men to use social media: 52% of senior women use social media compared to 39% of senior men.
•    Twitter is the least used social networking site; only 6% of seniors online use it (meaning only 3% of all U.S. seniors use it).

What does all this mean? First, it means that the best way to reach your customers depends largely on the specific demographics of your target market. If you are trying to reach 60-year-olds, your strategies and tactics will be very different than if you are trying to reach 80-year-olds. Second, it illustrates the importance of knowing your customer. It’s not enough to say your customer is anyone over the age of 55 because we know that there is so much variation in the behaviors and attitudes of American seniors. Third, it shows that technology use is growing among seniors. While there are certainly those seniors who are still skeptical of technology and reluctant to adopt it in their lives, that number is rapidly decreasing.

If your business needs to re-evaluate its approach to your target market, contact mRELEVANCE today! We work with companies across the U.S. to identity and define their target market, research their behavior and develop and implement marketing programs that reach the right audiences with relevant messaging.