Are You Comfortable Using Technology?
Aging Matters

Americans ages 60 and older spend over 4 hours a day on their TVs, computers, tablets or other electronic devices, says Pew Research. Screen time has increased for this age group and the rise is apparent across genders and education levels. The increase in screen time coincides with significant growth in adopting digital technology by older Americans. In 2000, 14% of the same group were Internet users; now 73% are. And about half (53%) of people 65 and older are smart phone owners.

Older adults embrace high-tech and digital developers want very much to market their platforms and tools to this age group. The most popular ones are the wearable devices that monitor blood pressure to daily steps taken, screen magnification, talk-to-text and even assistive devices. What about you, can you maneuver mobile apps? Are you confident in using mobile apps, laptops, smartphones, and tablets?

The Design Lab at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), researchers found that frustration with technology made older adults unsure of their ability to use it, leaving them unmotivated to try.


Even so, researchers found that seniors were eager to learn and interested in contributing to the design of digital technologies that would facilitate aging independently. The biggest desire is to understand and control their data as privacy was important to them.

What seniors would like to see are more easy to understand "How To" and "Getting Started" manuals that come with devices. Most times, technology comes with instructions using the terminology that they don't understand. One study participant had this to say: "Show me, slow down, and it's hard to get 'em to slow down...I feel like I'm being a burden or they just don't think Nana is smart enough. Maybe I'm not, but I could try harder if they were a little more patient."

As more and more people enter their 60s, technology companies will be forced to consider the needs as well as perspectives of this growing population if they hope to sell them their devices and services.

In the Design

What companies need to understand is today's tech is built by younger generations, for younger generations. Older adults are not considered in the design.

And as people grow older, the reaction time slows down. It's why many struggle with touch screens on an iPad and iPhone. Blood circulation plays a role when using touch screen devices as their touch may not register. Also older individuals with tremor disorders when using touch screens, it registers as a swipe and not a push.

Carol Marak, aging advocate, columnist, speaker and editor at She earned a Fundamentals of Gerontology Certificate from USC Davis School of Gerontology.

Part of the Aging Matters Weekly Syndicated Column

Aging Matters is a weekly column tackling everyday challenges that our growing elderly population and their loved ones face. It is also published in a variety of syndication partners including newspapers all over the country.

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