A recent study in JAMA examined trends in older adults’ technology use from 2011 to 2014, with a particular focus on the use of health technology. This survey of community-dwelling Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and better employed a nationally representative sample to get the most accurate overall picture of older adults’ technology use.
In terms of overall technology use, 73 percent of older adults reported using cellular phones and 63 percent reported using computers, which has remained steady since 2011. On the other hand, this survey showed that tablet use is increasing, jumping from under 20 percent to around 25 percent of older adults from 2013 to 2014 alone. As for online activities, 43 percent of older adults reported using e-mail or texts, an increase of approximately 3 percent since 2011. Social networking use is also increasing, with the percentage using these sites or apps at just below 20 percent. There were smaller increases in the percentage of older adults doing internet banking (approximately 20 percent) and online shopping (approximately15 percent).
In terms of digital health technology use, there were again increases from 2011 to 2014, although overall use remains low. Overall, “the proportion of seniors who used any digital health increased from 21% in 2011 to 25% in 2014.” While 60 percent of the general population searches for health information online, only 18 percent of older adults reported doing this in 2014, an increase from 15.5 percent in 2011. The other health technology use asked about in this survey was used by even fewer older adults, with around 10 percent using technology to contact physicians and fill prescriptions, and under 5 percent using technology to handle insurance.