It seems that the older generation loves to reminisce on the times when we didn’t have screens to stare at constantly. Smartphones can cause car accidents, people walk into streets, and people are consumed in their own little bubbles.
But technology can also be seen as a way to connect. Pew Research states that 82% of smartphone-owning seniors describe their phone as freeing. Only 64% of those ages 18-29 have the same sentiment. Even fewer elderly smartphone owners (18%) describe their phone as “a leash” compared to double (36%) of those under age 30.
Why is it that the elderly and young people view this technology so differently? Is it important for seniors to start using and embracing this technology even if it may seem overwhelming or difficult to use?
How do we use our smartphones?
This isn’t about necessarily “how to use a smartphone”, we want to discuss the role smartphones play in our lives. Pew Research Center found that younger adults use their phones for a wide range of purposed such as to relieve boredom and to avoid those around them. Older Americans mainly use their phones for basic features like calls, email, and texting.
The reason is likely that older Americans are less likely to be online. Also, only 27% of those ages 65 and older have a smartphone compared to 85% of 18-19 year olds.
Another reason seniors tend to use just the basic functions of their phones is due to medical conditions like poor eyesight or hearing that make it difficult to use other features. Pew also stated that many older Americans are skeptical of the benefits of having a smartphone.
But that doesn’t mean all seniors are Luddites. Their study showed that in 2014, half of seniors using the internet were on Facebook.
Why use a smartphone?
Yes, the smartphone has been to blame for young people not connecting with those around them, but the smartphone has many beneficial features that are not as news-worthy as a teen walking into the street while playing on their phone.
These beneficial features include:
- Video calls
- Access to real-time news (Twitter, news apps)
- Mobile banking and payments
- Maps and navigation (Google Maps)
What will get more seniors to use smartphones?
One answer is education.
Smartphones don’t come with user manuals, and even if they did it would still be overwhelming and confusing to use the device especially if it’s your first time.
Getting educators into nursing homes or senior centers, hosting community smartphone sessions at the library are great ways to show seniors the benefits of learning to use one.
Once they’re able to see that they can Skype their kids and relatives, and are able to figure out how to use it, they may want to jump on board.
But don’t pressure them. They’ve lived nearly their entire lives without one, and many will put their foot down about getting one. The next best solution is to get them a senior-friendly phone. There are some available with large buttons and screens that display big numbers for easier visibility.