Rise of the social seniors revealed


Older adults take to smartphones and tablets in record numbers

Record numbers of older people are embracing smart and social technology, with a quarter of over 75s using tablet computers, and half of online baby boomers taking to social media.

The findings are from Ofcom’s annual Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes report, which revealed how people use, understand and feel about the media and communications they rely upon each day.

This year’s report shows striking growth in older people’s use of technology between 2015 and 2016. Baby boomers aged 65 to 74 are increasingly connected, with four in 10 (39%) using a smartphone, up 11 percentage points in a year.

There has been a sharp rise in over 75s using tablets, from 15% to 27%. And the use of smartphones among this age group has nearly doubled, from 8% to 15%.

Nearly half (48%) of internet users aged 65 to 74 now have a social media profile. Among over 75s, the proportion with a profile has nearly doubled, from 19% to 41%.

Around nine in 10 (87%) social seniors aged over 65 opt for a Facebook account, but a smaller proportion use WhatsApp (6%) and Instagram (1%). But while 44% of over 75s go online, more than half do not, and most of these (86%) have no plans to do so.

Ofcom’s research also found that older adults are more connected than ever, but this generation still spends less than half the amount of time online than the younger generation. Over 65s spend 15 hours online each week, compared to 32 hours among 16 to 24s.

Social seniors aged over 65 also have different experiences online, with seven in 10 (72%) of over 65s saying they have not seen anything to offend or upset them in the last year, compared to 56% of adults generally. This may reflect older users’ more limited use of the online world. Most over 75s (51%) are ‘narrow’ internet users, meaning they typically carry out limited online activities; this compares to the average of 28%.

While older internet users are increasingly active online, some older people lack online confidence, according to Ofcom. A fifth (20%) of people over 65 described themselves as ‘not confident’ online, much higher than the average (7%).

One reason could be that many older users are new to the internet. Some 21% of internet users over 75 went online for the first time in the last five years, twice the wider average.

For those older internet users lacking confidence, this is particularly pronounced when managing personal data. Almost one in five internet users over 65 say they are ‘not at all confident’ about this.

And 16% of internet users over 55 said they ‘never’ consider the data or privacy implications when posting photos online, the largest proportion to say ‘never’ among all age groups.
Some older internet users were also unsure about sponsored links in search results. A quarter (27%) of search engine users aged over 75 said they were unsure, and less than half (46%) felt able to identify sponsored links.

Similarly, awareness of personalised advertising seems to be lower among some older users – with seven in 10 (72%) over 75s, and six in 10 (60%) 65 to 74s saying they were unaware of this type of advertising, compared to the average of 44%.

Alison Preston, head of media literacy at Ofcom, said: “The UK’s older generation is beginning to embrace smart technology, and using it to keep in touch with friends and family.

“But some older people lack confidence online, or struggle to navigate search results. Many are new to the internet, so we’d encourage people to help older friends or family who need support getting connected,” she concluded.


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