Older User Broadband Gap is Destined to Close

By Gary Kim April 10, 2014

It is by now no surprise that older people use new technology less than younger people, a pattern seen in pre-Internet days by the adoption of cable TV, which likewise featured adoption resistance among the oldest age deciles.

So, lower use of personal computers, smartphones, or the Internet among older deciles of U.S. consumers is not a surprise. Neither is it a “permanent” fact. Over time, as younger users become older, their technology habits will naturally lead to high levels of technology use across the board.

Some “problems” fix themselves, in other words.

Image via Shutterstock.

In April 2012, the Pew Research Center found for the first time, more than half of older adults (defined as those ages 65 or older) were Internet users. Today, 59 percent of seniors report they go online.

About 47 percent report they have a high-speed broadband connection at home. Some 77 percent of older adults also have a cell phone, up from 69 percent in April 2012.

Still, that means up to 41 percent of older adults do not use the Internet at all, 53 percent do not have broadband access at home, and 23 percent do not use mobile phones.

Internet use and broadband adoption among seniors each fall off notably starting at approximately age 75, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Internet adoption falls to 47 percent and broadband adoption falls to 34 percent among adults 75 to 79.

As you also would guess, household income is associated with higher use of broadband and the Internet at home.

Among seniors with an annual household income of $75,000 or more, 90 percent go online and 82 percent have broadband at home. For seniors earning less than $30,000 annually, 39 percent go online and 25 percent have broadband at home.

In addition, education is associated with higher usage rates. Fully 87 percent of seniors with a college degree go online, and 76 percent are broadband adopters. Among seniors who have not attended college, 40 percent go online and just 27 percent have broadband at home.

But “demographics is destiny.” For adults 49 or younger, about 80 percent have broadband access at home. If one looks at adults 49 or younger who have either home broadband or a smartphone, adoption is between 90 percent and 95 percent.

As those adults get older, their Internet and broadband habits are likely to persist, wiping out the usage gap based on age.    

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing Editor

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