WASHINGTON – There is still a large gap in technology adoption and use by older U.S. adults, according to fact sheets recently released by Pew Research.
Health care may be moving increasingly online and experts predict that the telemedicine market will hit $36.2 billion in just three years, but adults age 50 and older are lagging behind their younger counterparts in technology adoption and use, and the divide is even larger among those over the age of 70.
“The divide definitely widens as the age goes up,” said Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch. “Older adults are not buying into the trendiest tech.”
While 80% of the U.S. population age 65 and older own a cell phone, only 42% of those own a smartphone, according to Pew. Just 63% of this same age group said they use the Internet. The statistics are even lower for older adults with low income.
This is a problem because “so much of the useful advice for lower income seniors is online,” said Orlov.
This evidence of slow technology adoption by older adults could be troubling, Orlov said, if they are expected to be among the 7 million users of telehealth services by 2018, according to a report by IHS Markit.
Another survey conducted recently by AARP found that 70% of adults age 50 and up own some type of computing device, but a mere 20% of those people are confident that their data are kept private online. Even so, the survey respondents said they spend about half of their online time getting health and fitness information.
The same AARP survey found that only one in 10 adults over the age of 50 own a wearable device for health or fitness, and only 3% of those over the age of 70 own one.
“Newer technology like wearables have lower adoption rates,” said the researchers. “However, younger adults are more likely to own such devices than those over the age of 70.”
Orlov said it’s not likely that physicians or health care providers will help bring older adults along the technology wave.
“We keep hoping that doctors will help, but that’s not going to happen,” she said. “Handing a person a device and giving them training is a feasible solution if the incentives are there for the provider, but people won’t teach themselves.”
Orlov believes the best solution is for older adults to have a “proxy”—someone who can help an older adult with enough technology access to keep them engaged in taking care of their health.