Seniors Stepping into the World Wide Web

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The idea of having seniors use the internet on a daily basis was something not a lot of people expected. However, as the years went by, even this group couldn’t stay immune to the addictiveness of modern-day technologies and the internet.

More and more, older people today own a smartphone, and for one or another reason, they choose to spend a portion of their time on the internet. How and why they use it are clearly demonstrated in a piece by MediaAlertHelp, which details some reasons for using internet-based health aids and helps us understand some reasons that drive seniors to use technology and the internet, and how they use it.

Day-to-day activities of 60+ people online

So - what do seniors do online? As research done by Statista suggests, 91% of older people go online to check their emails,  70% use the internet to search for information, and 61% check the weather forecast. Other activities include reading the news at 58% and doing banking at 55%.

When it comes to the Millennials’ favorite online activity, only half of 60-year-olds and over use a social media network. Shopping online and searching for news related to politics is also something else they do. They are less likely to watch videos, send instant messages, use ad sites or participate in online auctions, and only 15% book vacations online.

Seniors and social media platforms

If there is one thing that Millennials are addicted to, it is social media. However, seniors are starting to catch up to the trend, and we can clearly notice their presence there now more than ever. However, although Instagram may be one of, if not the top social media platform for the younger generations, older users stick to something that has been out there for a while.

The most widely used social media platform for people over the age of 50 is Facebook, followed by Twitter, Instagram, and finally, Snapchat. Actually, as Smart Insights has gathered, only 1% of people over the age of 65 use Snapchat. This just shows that this generation is less likely to catch up to the trends as fast as the younger generation, but they can still be found there.

Seniors and their reasons for not using the internet

Although the internet has become an important tool in everyday life, those over 60 often have their reasons for mistrusting the internet or for not using it. The Pew Research Center states that 77% of older people want to use the internet, but are having difficulties navigating through it, while 22% of Americans either don’t trust the information on the internet or are “running away from” online harassment they’ve personally experienced.

However, there are also statistics that show that 2 in 5 seniors have some kind of physical or health condition that prevents them from logging into the internet. Poor eyesight is just one of the disabilities that makes it harder for seniors to incorporate the internet in their day-to-day life. That said, when they do use the internet, searching for health-related information is near the top of the list of their online activities. As a matter of fact, 53% of them use it to learn about healthcare and other health issues of interest.

Understanding why and how elderly people use the internet is just as important as why other demographics use it. A useful infographic summarizes some of these questions, making it easier for us to understand. It contains data on the most common devices used by older people, statistics on the most frequently used social media platforms, as well as reasons for using and not using the internet at all. These data may be user to those engaged I telehealth as seniors represent an important healthcare demographic that we might be inadvertently not serving using internet-based interventions and contact methods. Only by understanding their challenges with and potential biases towards these technologies can we better design tools and interventions that are better tailored and more suitable for senior users. Simple things like making sure sites are easy to access and log into, fonts are large and easy to read or even automatic sound tests to make sure volume levels are set correctly could all be incorporated into internet and social media tools to ensure their usability by a wider audience including seniors.

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About the Author

Nikola Djordjevic, MD, Head of Content at Coming from Serbia, Nikola is a doctor of medicine who started this project in 2018 out of his passion for helping others, particularly seniors. Apart from reviewing medical alert systems, he also writes a blog dedicated to health, aging, retirement, and other senior-related topics.