Apr 21, 2021
Tech Usage Among Older Adults Skyrockets During Pandemic
New AARP research report highlights rise in tech ownership, adoption, and usage, yet access to internet is still an issue for older Americans

WASHINGTON–In a year with a global pandemic significantly limiting social interaction, technology became more important than ever, especially for older adults. New research from AARP found that more older adults (44%) view tech more positively as a way to stay connected than they did before COVID-19. In addition, 4 out of 5 adults age 50+ rely on technology to stay connected and in touch with family and friends.

Yet, the report also found that the greater adoption and reliance on technology is uneven, as 15% of adults 50+ do not have access to any type of internet, and 60% say the cost of high-speed internet is a problem.

“Technology enabled older adults to better weather the isolation of the pandemic, from ordering groceries to telehealth visits to connecting with loved ones,” said Alison Bryant, Senior Vice President of Research at AARP. “But it also exacerbated the divide. So much more is done online, and the 38 million disconnected older adults are being further left out.”

AARP 2021 Tech Trends Report Key Findings:

  • Annual tech spending by the 50+ exponentially increased – from $394 to $1144. The top three tech purchases were smartphones, smart TVs and earbuds/Bluetooth headsets.
  • Using technology to connect with others across multiple forms of communication has increased since the onset of the pandemic. Many say they are using video chats (45%), texting (37%), emailing (26%), and phone (29%) more now than before the pandemic. As of 2019, about half had never used video chat, but by 2020, 70% have, with 1 in 3 using video chat weekly.
  • Tech use among the 50+ increased particularly in wearable devices – from 17% to 27%.
  • 50+ use of smartphones increased dramatically. For instance, use for ordering groceries grew from 6% to 24%; use for personal health increased from 28% to 40% for activities like telehealth visits, ordering prescriptions, or making appointments; use for health and fitness information increased 25% to 44%; and use for financial transactions increased 37% to 53%.
  • Half of the 50+ want to learn more about using tech (54%).
  • Cost (38%), awareness/lack of knowledge (37%) and privacy concerns (34%) are the top self-reported barriers holding the 50+ back from adopting new technology.
  • Privacy concerns continue to be a factor when it comes to tech, with 83% lacking confidence that what they do online remains private.
  • Weekly use of streaming increased to 58% from 44%, a significant shift in how the 50+ consume entertainment.

AARP has a long history of providing personal technology resources including digital literacy initiatives, practical guidebooks and advocacy on technology issues for the 50+. As part of our digital literacy work, OATS (Older Adults Technology Services) from AARP offers digital literacy courses, resources, and events, which are a key part of the AARP Virtual Community Center, an online destination for AARP members and non-members alike. OATS from AARP empowers older adults to overcome barriers to digital engagement by fostering skills and giving them the confidence they need to use technology and stay connected.

AARP has also long advocated for low-cost high-speed internet solutions for older adults and continued this work by recently supporting the new $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program. This program is available to subsidize broadband service for eligible Americans during the pandemic. AARP is collaborating with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct education and outreach to let people know about the EBB program.

To access the full report, please visit www.aarp.org/2021techtrends.

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About AARP
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.orgwww.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.