'Greying' Gadgets: How Older Americans Use Tech - Radio World

'Greying' Gadgets: How Older Americans Use Tech

Baby boomers have swelled the ranks of so-called "older Americans." People age 50 and up increasingly are being sought by marketers and manufacturers.
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Baby boomers have swelled the ranks of so-called "older Americans." People age 50 and up increasingly are being sought by marketers and manufacturers.

One significant trend is that members of this age demo are more tech-savvy than in past generations. They use the Web a lot, especially to research health issues and travel.

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Source: Compete/CEA There are 96 million Americans 50 and older, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections for 2008. That's out of a total population of 307 million. By 2020, the bureau projects that older Americans, by then numbering 118.7 million, will make up 35 percent of the population.

The Consumer Electronics Association and Compete, which specializes in studying online consumer behavior, recently teamed up on a study called "Greying Gadgets: How Older Americans View Consumer Electronics."

Among key findings: 67 percent of 70-somethings use a cell phone on a weekly basis; and older Americans are 27 percent more likely to visit travel Web sites than the average Internet user and 98 percent more likely to visit health sites.

When asked what top five consumer electronics they intend to buy in the next year, people in this age bracket listed HDTVs, laptops, cell phones, digital cameras or GPS devices. Radios were not among the top five results.

Their purse strings remain tighter than the average American, however. Asked how much they would spend on technology over the next five years, the average answer for all age groups was $2,000, but for older participants $500. Sixty percent of consumers who participated said they plan to spend less than $500 on CE purchases in 2009.

One thing in common among all age groups, not just older users, was frustration with CE products because of "feature creep" — when manufacturers load features into a device because they believe it delivers more value to the customer.

Sixty-four percent of those in their 60s said too many features on a device frustrates them, compared to 57 percent in their 50s. Forty-three percent of 35 to 49-year-olds said too many features on a device frustrates them and only 30 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds said so.

The figures were similar for participants who said CE device terminology is confusing and buttons are too small on CE devices — all adding to product frustration.

More than 3,000 older Americans took part in the online study in November and December; CEA and Compete interviewed adults ranging in age from 55 to 85. The companies used survey data they already had for the younger age groups.

— Leslie Stimson

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