Since first posting this article in 2010 when my blog was part of the NTEN community pages, Baby Boomers and Seniors have increasingly adopted the use of new technologies.
The past two years, I have endeavored to refresh this post with new information as it becomes available. Hence, you will find articles dating back to that time, as well as more recent information.
A 2013 report recently released by Pew Internet and American Life Project, Demographics of Internet Users, notes that Baby Boomers and Seniors are steadily increasing their use of the Internet. Seventy-seven percent of those aged fifty to sixty are online; and fifty-four percent of those aged sixty-five and older are using the Internet.
In all cases, those with more education (and those in higher income brackets) are more “online” than those with little or no education. What does this news hold for nonprofit organizations? Many of our donors and prospective donors (major and planned gift), are increasingly using the Internet … which means we should be, too.
Entrepreneurs who spied these trends early-on are developing “gadgets” for older adults. During the 2013 annual Consumer Electronics Show, John Patrick Pullen posted an article for Entrepreneur, “CES 2013: A ‘Healthy’ Outlook for Gadgets” (January 8, 2013).
“Recent advancements in technology and demand by baby boomers have increased the popularity for wellness devices. According to AARP, for the first time in history, seniors make up the largest age group in the U.S., and by 2015, 45 percent of the population will be 50 or older.”
A few months ago, Patricia Reaney of Reuters posted an inspiring article on August 14, 2012, “U.S. Seniors Find It’s Never Too Late To Learn Social Media.” She notes,
“Seniors, some in their 90s, could soon be making new friends on Facebook thanks to New York libraries offering classes to help the elderly learn, or brush up their social networking skills.”
In another one of my blog posts, “Americans and Their Gadgets,” I lament the need for “hands-on” classes to teach older adults how to use new technologies and social media, and I am delighted to see New York libraries and AARP leading the way. I post other suggestions that might be of help in that article as well.
Back to the statistics to underscore my point. Kathryn Zickuhr and Mary Madden of Pew Internet & American Life produced a helpful, more targeted report last year, “Older Adults and Internet Use” (June 6, 2012).
“As of April 2012, 53% of American adults age 65 and older use the internet or email. Though these adults are still less likely than all other age groups to use the internet, the latest data represent the first time that half of seniors are going online. After several years of very little growth among this group, these gains are significant.”
Back in April, 2011, Jamie Carracher, Digital Health Strategist at Edelman Digital in Washington, D.C. posted a article on Mashable, “How Baby Boomers Are Embracing Digital Media.” Jamie remarked,
“It’s no secret that senior citizens have typically been slow to use new technologies, including social media. But recent trends show older people are among the fastest-growing demographics online. Social network use among Internet users 50 years old and older has nearly doubled to 42% over the past year. In fact, in the U.S. along there are nearly 16 million people 55 and older using Facebook.”
Jamie also maintains a blog called, Aging Online.
In Jamie’s discussions, I particularly liked his precautions and key “takaways”:
- A growing number of older adults are taking advantage of the web right now. Don’t ignore them.
- As our society and the web mature, we need to make sure we are building it to empower everyone, not just the young and tech-savvy.
- New technologies and web services will need to be intuitive and easy to use but not insulting.
- Accessibility has to be built into the planning processes for new projects from the beginning, including consideration of design, text size and physical usability.
- Once new products and services are ready for public consumption, education is key to make sure seniors don’t fall behind and become victims of a “digital divide.”
Being involved in the philanthropic sector, why should we care?
People in the “Boomer” age group are entering a time of life when many commonly consider making significant charitable donations.
Boomers are also more charitably inclined than some other age groups. And, because more than 80% of all charitable donations are made by individuals, those of us involved in nonprofit fundraising need to keep this in mind and to plan accordingly.
- Yaara Lancet of MakeUseOf posted, “Tech Through 90-Year-Old-Eyes” (January 4, 2013). “Getting a glimpse into the way older people view technology is definitely thought-provoking. There’s a common conception that 90-year-olds, and even 60 and 70-year-olds can’t use technology properly. This is obviously wrong, the subject vastly misunderstood.”
- Eric Nagourney has written for The New York Times, “Why Am I a Challenge for Charities?” (January 12, 2013). “Researchers have estimated that the baby boomer generation gives more money to charity than any other generation, about $47 billion a year.”
- I enjoyed this blog post by Allyson Kapin of Care2/Frogloop, “Tips to Engage Baby Boomers and Seniors Through Social Media” (October 1, 2012). The article includes convincing statistics about why nonprofits should focus on Boomers and seniors, and you can listen to a pre-recorded webinar on the topic, too.
- Some of the information I have referenced above is discussed by Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, in the November, 2012 AARP Bulletin, “Seniors’ Moment in a Digital World.”
- I enjoyed Brian Proffitt’s article, “Why Boomers Won’t Release Their Grip on Technology,” posted October 18, 2012 on ReadWriteWeb. “Put away the cozy image of the little old lady knitting a sweater for the grandkids, or the distinguished gentlemen playing chess in the park, because the newest elder generation is not going to sit quietly in a rocking chair.”
- ElderGadget is a blog by Elie Gindi that you might enjoy.
- AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) is also focusing some attention on new technologies that will help people as they age. You might also want to review the organization’s website for additional information (aarp.org).
- An article by Aidan Hijleh of Benchmark EMail appears in All Facebook, “How To Appeal to Facebook’s Fastest Growing Demographic: Seniors” (October 4, 2011). Aidan provides helpful insights and references the Pew report as well.
For more information please see my next blog page, “Baby Boomers and Seniors: Additional Information.”