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Seniors typically have lower rates of technology adoption than other age groups, but today they are more digitally connected than ever. In fact, key senior groups – those who are younger, have higher levels of education, and above-average household incomes – own and use technology at similar rates compared with sub-65 year olds. [1]

Smartphone Ownership

U.S. seniors are today’s fastest growing group of smartphone adopters. About four in ten seniors (42%) now own smartphones, more than double the share that did so in 2013.

However, it’s not an even mix. Smartphone ownership among seniors varies substantially by age; 59% of 65- to 69-year-olds own smartphones, but that share falls to 49% among 70- to 74-year-olds.[2]

Seniors with above average levels of education and income index even higher on daily smartphone usage. Since 2013 smartphone adoption among older adults who live in households earning $75,000 or more a year has increased by 39%. Those with at least bachelor’s degrees, as well as those who are ages 65 to 69, have each seen a 30% increase in smartphone adoption over that time.

Social Media Activity

Social channels like Facebook and Instagram are massive platforms where individuals find news and information, share their experiences, and connect with friends and family. Just as internet use and smartphone ownership has grown among seniors, so has social media activity.

Younger seniors are more likely than their older counterparts to use social media. More than 45% of seniors sampled under the age of 75 say they use social networking sites, compared with 20% of those ages 75 and older. Similar to the above reported smartphone trends, social networking use is also most common among those seniors who have at least some college experience and those whose annual household income is $50,000 or more.[3]

Most seniors make the internet a standard part of their daily routine once they’re connected. About 75% of older internet users go online at least daily, including 51% who say they do so several times a day and 8% who say they use the internet almost constantly. Among older adults who own smartphones, this figure is even higher: 76% of these smartphone-owning older adults use the internet several times a day or more.

Use and Sentiment

As the adoption of traditional broadband service and desktop computers stagnates, more and more Americans now use smartphones as their primary means of online access. Today just over one-in-ten American adults are “smartphone-only” internet users – meaning they own a smartphone, but do not have traditional home broadband service.

Still, older Americans who use the internet tend to view technology in a positive light and gladly incorporate it into their everyday lives. 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.[4]

Moving Forward: Marketing Action Items

  1. Conduct an internal audit, specifically on your mobile campaigns and content. Are you engaging seniors on mobile, and if not, how will you?
  2. Identify budget and resources needed optimize engagement with senior audiences in an always-on manner.
  3. Structure at least one pilot campaign specifically for senior audiences if you have not done so already, and set up A/B testing to identify best practices based on your healthcare segment and product/service suite.
  4. Review audit and pilot data to determine your level of commitment to senior targeting.

Seniors are more active on mobile, digital and social channels than ever before, and they are just as impressionable as younger age groups. If you aren’t marketing to this audience you’re leaving revenue on the table.



[1] Pew Research Center, “Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults”, http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/05/17/technology-use-among-seniors/
[2] Ibid
[3] Pew Research Center, “Older Adults and Technology Use”, http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/
[4] Pew Research Center, “Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults”, http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/05/17/technology-use-among-seniors/

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