Do Older People Engage with Technology?

Do Older People Engage with Technology?

At Link-Ages Tech we have worked with older people to design a digital communication platform that is safe and simple to use. Our platform makes it easier for older people to engage with technology.

There is little doubt that the growth of digital communication platforms such as social media messaging apps has made it easier for people in to stay in touch and share their experiences.  At the same time, the global population is ageing, with more people now over 65 than under 5.  However, there is a widely held belief that older people are not interested in engaging with technology and research suggests older people are slower to adopt new technologies1. These factors have created opportunities and challenges for technology developers to assist older people in connecting with friends and family2.

Increase In Age Tech To Support Older People

Many companies are currently developing technologies to support older people and while this increase in ‘Age-Tech’ is welcome, it is important make sure the products being developed are both desirable and useful to the target audience.

For example, only 20% of people who would benefit from hearing aids seek them out3.  Why?  Because many of these products are aesthetically unappealing and associated with old age.  Only 35% of people over 75 consider themselves “old” 4, and products that are merely functional are therefore unlikely to prove attractive to those in later life.

Why Older People Do Not Engage With Technology

Computer anxiety and computer self-efficacy are often-cited barriers to adoption of technology, with a reported 73% of people over 65 saying they need someone to assist them in learning and using a new device or piece of software6.

Concerns around complexity of technology, feelings of inadequacy and health related issues such as declining visual clarity may also prevent older people from trying new technologies2.  Older people may report they are ‘too old’ as a convenient and socially acceptable cover for other concerns such as online security and fear of ‘getting things wrong’ 7.  Missing out on the opportunities for connection that digital communication can bring can leave older people feeling socially isolated.

Addressing Barriers To Technology Adoption Among Older People

It is important that these barriers, whether real or perceived, are addressed.

When they are, older people are eager to try new technology and willing to learn how to use a tablet or smartphone2.  There is evidence that older people will be more willing to engage with technology when the perceived benefits outweigh the concerns8.

For example, an individual might be concerned that digital engagements with local family might replace social interactions but could see the benefit of being able to video call and share photos with distant relatives. Ultimately, it is important to stress that communication technology is not intended to replace face to face interaction, but rather to augment and enhance it.

How Our Communication Platform Can Help

At Link-Ages Tech, we have worked with older people to develop a communication platform that has been designed to address their needs, namely safety, security and ease of use.

The interface is clear, uncluttered and ad-free, and uses legible fonts with a high contrast colour scheme. Our experience is that technology is not a barrier for older people using our platform because they appreciate the service it provides: connecting families and sharing experiences.

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