Technology is providing seniors with a multitude of applications to improve their health, lifestyle, safety, and entertainment. While the younger generations may think these older Americans are the equivalent of technology dinosaurs, the statistics show that middle aged and older Americans are becoming more digitally connected. A Pew Institute study shows that large numbers of seniors are participating in the technology revolution and provides insightful breakdowns of the demographics.
Smartphone ownership and usage of applications, social media, and online gaming continue to increase at a rapid pace with a full 91 percent of technology users 50 years of age or older saying they use personal technology devices to stay in touch with family and friends. Notably, texting by seniors (86%) has become as pervasive as email (87%). Smartphones are also a handy tool for planning optimal routes to and from locations as well as receiving up to the minute traffic information. Simply put, older Americans now leverage smartphone use in much the same ways that their younger counterparts do and in some ways, seniors (aged 60 – 69) are leading the charge in smartphone use to manage their medical care. Online banking and money management are becoming more prevalent with senior users as they become more educated about privacy mechanisms to protect their identity and assets in an online and cloud storage world.
Online learning is also prevalent in the senior demographic. An AARP survey shows 23 percent of older adults embrace online learning by taking classes for certificates, obtaining degrees, and embracing Do It Yourself (DIY) tutorials. This percent of seniors in online learning is likely to continue its increase as mental agility and longevity become increasingly important due to the alarming rise of dementia disease in the aging population. Many studies now show that keeping your mind active, along with exercise and a healthy diet, can help reduce the risk of dementia later in life.
Another interesting avenue of growth for older Americans is in virtual reality. The growth rate is currently about 4 percent a year with 13 percent of adults aged 50 or more engaging in the technology. Nearly 90 percent of all virtual reality headsets are smart and mobile phone based. The ease of porting a smartphone into a headset which operates as the screen makes virtual reality a compelling tool for aging seniors. While it provides immersive realities for gaming entertainment, it also can give extensive exploration opportunities for those seniors with limited mobility. Imagine someone who cannot walk being transported to experience a tour of the ancient Greek site the Acropolis, enjoying a virtual scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef, or taking part in a guided tour through a faraway museum without ever leaving their home, wheel chair, or bed! The mental stimulation and joy it can bring are just beginning to be tapped for the senior market. Virtual reality is projected to impact the gaming industry more profoundly than any other industry, and gamers include the senior market in a balanced way comparative to different age groups.
Wearable technology is gaining popularity among the senior market. They include products like smart watches, smart jewelry, fitness trackers, even smart clothing. While being worn, they provide intelligent assistance that can augment memory, intellect, communication, creativity, and physical abilities and senses. They also come replete with challenges such as interface interferences, power requirements, network resources, and privacy concerns. Wearable fitness trackers are becoming commonplace in assisted living and nursing facilities as the technology will alert medical staff when a patient’s vitals are outside of their norm even if that worker is engaged in other tasks.
Worldwide, corporations are very interested in wearable technologies, particularly as it relates to medical issues. Some seniors who would not qualify for implant surgery because of pre-existing health conditions might be able to use a wearable pacemaker rather than having a surgical implant procedure. Other techniques for nonsurgical intervention include smart patches and electronic tattoos that can regulate dysfunctional systems in the body. For those seniors who can tolerate implant surgeries, new and innovative ideas for micro device implants are bringing forward the concept of the transhuman. Transhuman is defined as a standard biological human being who is augmented by implants that might provide improved intelligence, awareness, strength, or durability. Even in the absence of a serious health issue, implants may soon be able to enhance the medical monitoring of seniors in their daily lives. Think of it as a highly accurate fitness tracker implant. These implants in “transhumans” may be able to observe developing physiological and psychological trends and predict adequate responses to health changes in aging adults.
It is projected that seniors will continue to increase their exposure to and use of technologies at many levels. Development to meet the demands of senior needs coupled with their purchasing power will drive the technology industry for decades to come in ways that are not even imagined yet. For now, aging Americans are embracing technology and the benefits it brings to their lives.
The team at Hodgkins Law embraces technology and supports our clients in staying connected and involved with emerging technology. For more information about how we can help you with your estate planning and elder law needs, please visit our website or give us a call (207-358-3270) to attend a free educational seminar or schedule a consultation with our team.