Your Grandma Probably Loves the Internet

A new study shows that seniors are increasingly connected online, but the tech divide grows among older, poorer and disabled seniors.

You probably won’t see your grandparents posting selfies or tweeting anytime soon. But a new study says that America’s senior citizens are embracing technology, slowly but surely.

The key findings of the Pew Research Center’s “Older Adults and Technology Use” include:

  • About 3 in 4 seniors have cellphones.
  • Nearly 60 percent of older adults use the Internet, a 6 percent increase from this time last year.
  • Half of seniors have high-speed broadband access at home.
  • Only 27 percent of seniors use social networking sites.

According to Pew, two groups of senior citizens emerged during their research. The group that embraces technology tends to be younger, more highly educated and more affluent. The second group, mainly composed of older, poorer and disabled folks, remains mostly disconnected from the digital world, “both physically and psychologically,” Pew said.

According to the International Business Times:

Once senior citizens get online, 79 percent agree that people without Internet access are at a real disadvantage in the modern world. Older Americans, especially those with disabilities, could benefit the most from Internet services but are the ones left most in the dark.

One issue that prevents many older Americans from using technology is not knowing how to use it. Just one-sixth of seniors said they felt comfortable learning to use a new gadget on their own, while 77 percent said they would prefer to have someone else walk them through the process.

My 63-year-old dad, a retired railroad engineer, has no clue how to use a computer, let alone how to log onto the Internet. He has an old-school style flip cellphone that he never uses. He didn’t have to use a computer in his job, and I don’t think he has any interest in learning to use one now. My mom bought him a Kindle Fire for Christmas, and I don’t think it’s even out of the box yet.

And then there’s my mom, who taught herself how to use a computer in her 40s after she made sure all five kids were in bed. Now retired, you will rarely see her without her iPhone and iPad in hand.

What do you think of the senior population’s migration to technology? Do you think those who are digitally disconnected are at a disadvantage? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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  • LagunaLady27

    There is a huge senior community in Laguna Woods, CA. The community center there has a both a Mac and a PC classroom where classes are held in addition to fully stocked PC and Mac workrooms where seniors may use the computers, printers and scanners. There are volunteers to help when help is needed. There are even three ability levels of classes for iPad use. Other technology is easy to come by in the community as well. Other cities should use this Laguna Woods Village as a model. Seniors who are poor or disabled do not have to buy technology to use it. Neither do they have to show up fully informed. The only divide is self imposed, and even that is disappearing.

    • Jcatz4

      Is the Laguna Woods Village an affluent private community? Somebody had to pay for the computers, printers and scanners. I am a Senior (70) and while I have had a computer since 2001 (this is my 2nd one), I certainly don’t know everything about them. Technology keeps changing so fast. It’s like every time I think I know how to play the game – they keep changing the rules. I still only have dial-up service for internet and that is basically because I really can’t afford anything else. I am a single SR and I live on SS and a very small pension.

      • LagunaLady27

        You would have to define affluent. Some there are wealthy. Some are poor and on welfare. Most are somwhere in between. There are 18,000 people there, so there is money to buy lots of things! Google Laguna Woods Village.

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