Older Americans More Connected Than Ever

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Americans older than 65 now make up about 17% of the U.S. population and that percentage is expected to reach 22% by 2050. But while the country is getting older, it is also getting better connected, and older Americans are not being left behind.

Well, they’re not being left behind in categories like internet connectivity, broadband subscriptions and smartphone and tablet adoption. Older Americans do lag the rest of the population in their use of social media, however, with just 34% who say they have or use social media, compared with 69% of the U.S. adult population.

One-third of older Americans say they never use the internet and almost half (49%) do not have broadband services. Less than half (42%) own and use a smartphone. That’s an increase since 2011 of 31 percentage points, but remains 42 percentage points below 18- to 64-year-olds who own and use smartphones.

The data were reported last week by Pew Research Center, based on a survey fielded between September 29 and November 6 of 2016.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, but as age increases, using internet or broadband services and owning a smartphone decreases. Among Americans between the ages of 65 and 69, 82% use the internet, 66% have broadband service and 59% own a smartphone. Americans between the ages of 75 and 79 are much less connected: 60% use the internet, 41% have broadband service and 31% own a smartphone.

Household income also plays a role in older Americans’ connectivity. Among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more per year, smartphone ownership has increased 39% since 2013, a pace 15 points higher than among all older Americans.

Here’s an interesting comment from the Pew researchers:

[O]lder Americans who use the internet tend to view technology in a positive light and incorporate digital technology into their everyday lives. Fully 58% of adults ages 65 and older say technology has had a mostly positive impact on society, while roughly three-quarters of internet-using seniors say they go online on a daily basis – and nearly one-in-ten go online almost constantly.

More results and other data points from the survey are available from Pew Research.