A 2014 Smart Rural Community (SRC) white paper reported a significant age gap in the adoption of broadband technologies: 43% of Americans age 65 and older subscribed, compared to 80% of those between 18 and 29, 78% of those between 30 and 49, and 69% of those between 50 and 64.
New data from the Pew Research Center shows that seniors have made significant strides since then. Pew reports that today, the majority—51%--of those age 65 and older have broadband service in their homes, and two-thirds—67%--use the Internet on a regular basis.
While still below the average for all adults—73% of which have broadband at home and 90% of which use the Internet on a regular basis—the results are encouraging.
Pew found that seniors are embracing technology on several fronts. Forty-two percent indicated they have or use a smartphone, more than double the share that did so in 2013. Approximately one-third of seniors surveyed—32%--own a tablet, a double-digit increase since 2013.
As noted in the 2014 SRC white paper, seniors often need assistance in using technology. That continues to be the case—Pew found that 73% of those over the age of 65 indicated they frequently need somebody to set up new technology or show them how to use it. Even then, seniors can be apprehensive: only 26% said they felt “very confident” when using computers, smartphones or other electronics, compared with 41% of those 50 to 64, 60% of those 30 to 49, and 74% of those 18 to 29.
Still, the news is encouraging. And as America continues graying—by 2050, 22% of Americans will be 65 and older—the real challenge will be ensuring that all older Americans have access to broadband service that allows them to accomplish all that they wish to do online.