Are you a "silver surfer"? The term is used to describe older adults who are Internet-savvy and love technology. While some people may think that the world wide web is just for younger folks, there are many people over 65 who use it to keep in touch with family and friends, organize events at their retirement communities or simply pick up new information. Unfortunately, some of the marketers and developers who are working on expanding and evolving the Internet may write off the senior crowd, and this could be a big mistake.
The wired senior population
New research published in the International Journal of Intercultural Information Management proves that older adults are increasingly "plugged in" to the Internet. Professors at the University of Central Arkansas' Department of Management Information Systems gathered data from the U.S. Census current population reports; three large studies from SeniorNet, a promoter of elderly computer and internet use; and a variety of scholarly research programs that examined the issue.
Upon compiling this information, the researchers found that older adults are using the Internet in the same ways as their younger counterparts. They look for new products to buy, research their personal interests, keep up with loved ones and use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. They're not only logging in from desktop computers, either - the data shows that more and more older adults are adopting mobile technology like smartphones and tablets.
Seniors are left out
Unfortunately, despite this compelling evidence that older adults are frequently using the Internet, seniors are often overlooked in terms of web development and services. Hardware and software manufacturers frequently only focus on younger people, meaning that seniors living with cognitive or physical limitations may not feel equipped to use some of the more complex technology. This is a big mistake on developers' part, the researchers say, because the over-65 demographic is the segment of the population that has the most disposable income to spend on Internet technology.
"Ensuring that our seniors are mainstream participants in the digital world is a responsibility shared by all, so that our elderly remain productive and contributing members of our society," the researchers wrote. "Such an approach will improve their overall quality of life, as well as the world at large."
Seniors who feel overwhelmed by today's technology may want to take advantage of courses offered at their assisted living communities. These classes can help them figure out programs such as Facebook, Skype and email that allow them to stay in touch with family and friends who live further away.