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By show of hands…how many people text their grandparents on a daily basis? How many e-mail their grandparents at least once a week?  How many of your grandparents own iPhones, iPads, or Macs?

If you ask these questions to a room full of students (roughly 10-25 in age), you might get a variety of responses.  Some would say that their grandparents are completely unaware of what technology has to offer.  Some would say that their grandparents use technology, but not often.  And then there are even some who would say that their grandparents use technology more than they do…but they are definitely of the minority.

That being said, there is no question that many seniors are less skilled when using technology and the web, as compared to younger generations.  Unlike the youth of today, our grandparents did not grow up in a world filled with cool technological gadgets and the world-wide web. Therefore, now more than ever, they are having to adopt to a new way of living…one which is strongly influenced by technology.

In a recent Pew study, researchers measured a correlation between technological use and American seniors (ages 65 or older), as compared to rest of the population.  They then went further and compared technological use amongst American seniors themselves.

Here is what they found:

“Based on the study, there are two different groups of older Americans. The first group (which leans toward younger, more highly educated, or more affluent seniors) has relatively substantial technology assets, and also has a positive view toward the benefits of online platforms. The other (which tends to be older and less affluent, often with significant challenges with health or disability) is largely disconnected from the world of digital tools and services, both physically and psychologically.”

To numerically calculate the correlation between technological use and American seniors, researchers studied the use of the internet and the ownership of cell phones amongst seniors.  The results revealed a recent positive increase in the correlation between technological use and American seniors.

“Today, 59% of seniors report they go online—a six-percentage point increase in the course of a year—and 47% say they have a high-speed broadband connection at home. In addition, 77% of older adults have a cell phone, up from 69% in April 2012.”

This may be the result of a societal pressure, especially from younger generations.  In order to communicate with today’s youth, many seniors are feeling the pressured to adjust to technological changes.  For instance, my grandmother just got her first iPad.  After she purchased it, she quickly asked for me and my brother to show her how to use applications, such as FaceTime. She then began sending me more e-mails from her iPad, including pictures and videos.  Having an iPad has allowed her to contact her grandkids in ways where we are more likely to be receptive.  Good job Grandmom, I’m proud!

However, that being said, there are many seniors who simply refuse to bend to millennial pressure.  Various reasons for these refusals include:

  1. “Physical challenges to using technology: Many seniors have physical conditions or health issues that make it difficult to use new technologies.
  2. Skeptical attitudes about the benefits of technology: Older adults who do not currently use the internet are divided on the question of whether that lack of access hurts them or not.
  3. Difficulties learning to use new technologies: A significant majority of older adults say they need assistance when it comes to using new digital devices.”

Hey Grandmom…did you know that just 18% of seniors would feel comfortable learning to use a new technology device such as a smart phone or tablet on their own, while 77% indicate they would need someone to help walk them through the process.  Between you and me, I would create a third group for those who ask for help but also attempt to learn how to use it themselves.  Pretty sure you would fall under that category.

And don’t get me started on social media.  Unlike most millennials who are on multiple social media sites, 46% of online seniors (representing 27% of the total older adult population) use social networking sites such as Facebook.  In addition, among seniors who go online but do not currently use social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, 56% would need assistance if they wanted to use these sites to connect with friends or family members.

My point in all of this: We often discuss how technological advancements are impacting today’s youth.  But truth be told, it is also influencing seniors who feel obligated to change their way of living. Is this fair to them?  Check out this cute video I found of seniors learning about YouTube.  And to all my JOMC peers…if you have never heard the “Hallelujah Chorus,” I am disowning y’all! Enjoy!

http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/

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