By Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, May 5, 2020
Ageism is widespread in the tech industry. Many younger computer experts had a good laugh when a recent call went out for COBOL programmers. That was, until these relative newbies realized how many citizens would be left waiting for financial support after the recent surge in demand for unemployment checks. Computer experts were even more chagrined then they heard about the hiring bonuses being offered and realized they did not have relevant skills.
As seniors “invaded” Facebook over the last decade, raising the average age bar to its present heights, (age 45 in the US and Germany), younger adults expanded their social networking to additional sites and apps that let them still keep some distance.
Meanwhile, parents and grandparents alike still crave connection, and increasingly find it online. Consequently, we’re seeing rapid adoption Zoom and FaceTime, as well as broader adoption of home delivery services.
Seniors are more tech-savvy than they may want to reveal. 95% have used a personal computer (PC or Mac). Their average (mean) experience is 27 years, with 75% or seniors having first started using one 22 or more years ago, half 30 or more years ago, and 25% starting 37 or more years ago. Over half of seniors 60+ have been using one type of personal computer or another for 30 years.
Seniors grew up with computers. A senior today would likely have been a working adult as PCs grew into widespread use. A 60-year old today would have been 24 when Apple released its first Macintosh and 21 when IBM released its first PC.
Personal computing device
Nearly three-fourths (73%) of seniors 60 or older are using a Windows PC as their primary computing device. An Apple iPad accounts for 10%, and 6% an Apple Mac or MacBook. Only 8% use an Android tablet or Chromebook.
Seniors embracing video calls
Many seniors adopt technology quickly when they choose to. And, they are even more likely to when it involves connecting with family members like grandchildren or distant children. Group video calls, such as with Zoom, have grown quickly among seniors. Less than a year ago, we found only 3% of American seniors 65+ doing any regular multi-person video calls or meetings. In our research today (May 1, 2020), we found that 36% have made group video calls since February 1st, 2020.
We have also found that one-to-one video calls have increased, although not as rapidly. Currently, more than a third of seniors are regularly or have recently made video calls. Based on our TUP/Technology User Profile 2019 wave, 23% were making personal video calls. That is now up to 39%.
Video calling less often for alone seniors
Only one in four seniors living alone are staying connected with others through video calls and meetings. The highest use of video calls or meetings is among senior households with 2 or more people. Among households with 2 persons, the rate is effectively half – 50% for one-to-one video calls and 47% for multi-person video calls. For homes with 3 or more persons, the rate is nearly as high. With new things such as technology services, it can help to have someone nearby to show how to use it.
Video calling favorites
Zoom is the most-widely used platform for video calls with multiple people. One in four (24%) of seniors age 60 and higher use Zoom, which is far above the penetration of other platforms. Microsoft’s tools, when combined, make up 8%. Skype makes up most of this set, with 5% of seniors using it. A small percentage of seniors are using Microsoft’s Teams service, primarily those employed full-time or part-time.
For one-to-one video calls, there are a host of choices seniors use. These include FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, and Skype. It is not surprising to see FaceTime, as it is already integrated with nearly all Apple iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Facebook is cross-platform, allowing users to more easily connect with friends who may be using a Windows PC or an Android smartphone. Skype is part of Microsoft Office, and since seniors have a high share of Windows PC, it is likely a choice that is near to hand. Zoom only ranks 4th for one-to-one calls, so it has not fully taken over as a communication platform among seniors.
Working from home
Of the 26% of seniors age 60 or older who are employed full-time or part-time, over half (55%) are working from home. Three weeks ago, we found in our April 8th survey that 61% of age 55+ adults were working from home, an effectively similar rate.
Many seniors are using delivery services for groceries, takeout, or medicine. Use of these convenience services are not among the majority, however. Although current stay-at-home orders vary by region, grocery and medicinal shopping is considered an essential task and these delivery substitutes aren’t available everywhere.
As long-experienced techies continue aging, they will join the corps of elders bringing along many of their present expectations and demand. Their years of tech exposure along with their predominantly higher generational wealth make them an increasingly important market segment to understand.
However, intergenerational squabbles, distrust, and misunderstanding have persisted for eons. In the US, many advertisers and marketers direct their messages and attention towards youth, or at least towards youthfully aspiring images. While younger adults of means are often the earliest adopters of technology products or services, technology adoption does not suddenly stop at some fixed age.
As the saying goes, old dogs can learn new tricks.
About this TUPdate
MetaFacts conducted independent research to gather the results used in this TUPdate. The projections of total US adults with children are based on TUP/Technology User Profile 2019 conducted among 8,060 respondents. Also, this TUPdate included results from the April 29th, 2020 wave of the MetaFacts Senior Study, the first wave of a special study focused on the quickly changing situation. This wave included responses from 309 online adults with online adults age 60 or older.
Current TUP/Technology User Profile subscribers may request the supporting TUP information used for this analysis or for even deeper analysis. Subscribers to the MetaFacts Seniors Study may request the supporting information and can make additional inquiries. For more information about MetaFacts and subscribing to TUP or the MetaFacts Student Study, please contact MetaFacts.