Feature Article

February 05, 2014

Senior Americans Express Interest in Mobile Devices, But Penetration of Demographic is Still Low

While smartphone and tablet vendors seem to spend a lot of time chasing a youthful demographic with advertisements centered on the latest pop stars and young actors plus popular apps, they may want to consider branching out: way out, toward the senior citizen demographic. It simply makes good business sense.

Today, only 21 percent of Americans aged 65 or older own a smartphone, which leaves a lot of room for growth. According to a recent infographic prepared by GreatCall and its 2013 Media Survey of seniors, older Americans are more open to modern technology than we might think. Fully 84 percent of them believe that the Internet has revolutionized the way we research and buy products and services, and 81 percent say technology is a tool to help them stay connected with family and friends. Sixty one percent say they enjoy learning about new technology products, and more than two-thirds (68 percent) say they try to keep up with technologies that are new to them.

When it comes to smartphones, many seniors are buying them for safety reasons. The GreatCall survey found that 63 percent of survey respondents reported that they keep a smartphone for security. This doesn’t mean they should be limited to this use, however: there are apps targeted at seniors for a variety of purposes, including medication schedule reminders, recipe apps such as Epicurious, apps such as WellBeingPlus which are daily reminder apps, and Red Panic Button, which allows a senior who needs assistance to press a single button to send a text message and an e-mail alert with GPS coordinates to a preselected list of medical providers, emergency services or family and friends. The Apple iPad, which offers large-print functionality, even allows senior users to download the Silver Surfer browser, which is custom designed for older Americans with larger print and larger navigation buttons.

There is evidence, though, that seniors are not making the most of their smartphones and tablets. The GreatCall survey found that only 70 percent of seniors say they know how to use most of the features on their smartphones, 46 percent say there are features they would like to learn to use, and 41 percent report that smartphones are too complicated. They also find challenges in small screens, tiny touch-screen keyboards and confusing features.

Phone and tablet manufacturers and carriers who took some extra time to educate senior customers, or tailor services to them, could find themselves reaping some considerable rewards. 


 

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

 


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