Older Adults Have Gone Digital: Four Trends That Are Here to Stay

(BPT) - During the pandemic, many older adults went digital, adopting technology to manage daily tasks and stay connected to family and friends. As we emerge from COVID-19, here’s what we see ahead for older adults with respect to their use of technology.

Post-pandemic, older adults will continue to acquire and use tech

It’s probably no surprise that during the pandemic, older adults’ usage and acquisition of tech increased, according to AARP’s annual tech survey and we predict these trends will continue once the pandemic ends.

While sheltering at home to protect themselves from infection, adults in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s streamed movies and TV shows, and video-chatted with loved ones and colleagues. They also bought smart TV’s, phones, watches, tablets, home assistants and home security and were likely to use them daily. Along with increased usage, older adults spent more on tech, with the average bill rising from $394 in 2019 to $1,144 in 2020.

Still, barriers remain. Older adults cite the cost of high speed internet, privacy concerns and knowledge gaps as the top reasons they remain hesitant to adopt technology. And nearly 22 million older Americans continue to lack broadband internet access at home. AARP’s annual tech survey discovered that more than half of older adults who have access to tech want a better understanding of the devices they’ve bought and more than a third still lack confidence when using technology.

To help older adults become more confident and knowledgeable users of technology, AARP Foundation and Chase have developed a library of free online resources in Spanish and English. These resources will help people stay connected to each other and their communities and strengthen their financial health.

The library includes videos and virtual workshops to assist with everyday tasks like mobile banking, finding jobs online, downloading apps, ordering groceries and more.

Digital banking is here to stay

Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, most older adults handled their financial transactions at a bank or ATM. Since the pandemic, however, many older adults have become accustomed to managing multiple aspects of their finances from their smart devices, and we predict this trend is here to stay.

Overseeing one’s bank accounts virtually is only one benefit of mobile banking apps. They also help older adults improve their financial health by enabling them to deposit checks, monitor their spending, and save on monthly bills from the comfort of their own homes or any other location.

Online banking tools can also increase financial safety. For older adults, who are frequently targeted by scammers, electronic banking alerts like text messages, in-app notifications and emails are a convenient early warning system, allowing them to notify the bank quickly when they discover suspicious charges.

AARP Foundation and Chase have created a virtual workshop outlining some of the most common scams on the internet and how to protect against them. Ways to protect oneself includes safeguarding personal information, paying close attention to the language used by the scammer, which will often contain spelling and grammatical errors, and setting up banking alerts to detect potential fraud. In this video, we developed a list of red flags and questions to ask yourself if you feel that an online connection might be a scam.

Older adults will continue to accomplish an increasing number of daily tasks online

During the pandemic, older adults became accustomed to visiting the doctor and ordering groceries online. We predict they will continue to do so once the pandemic ends and add many more tasks to this list as they become increasingly comfortable online.

Traveling to a medical appointment can be stressful and time-consuming, especially for older adults who lack transportation, face mobility challenges or have concerns about the pandemic. During COVID-19, many older adults were able to schedule telehealth visits and consult healthcare providers from the comfort of their homes or assisted living facilities. Many providers are continuing to schedule virtual medical appointments via Zoom or Facetime even as the pandemic recedes. Telehealth can also make it easier to order prescriptions online, and refill them, saving trips to the pharmacy.

Many older adults used grocery delivery apps to order groceries during the last year and a half, reducing the time and effort it takes to procure groceries in person. Now that more older adults are familiar with ordering online, we anticipate that they will continue to do so.

Connecting virtually is here to stay

During the pandemic, many people realized for the first time the immense toll of social isolation. Older adults also learned that digital communication channels such as social media, Zoom, Skype, and Facetime allowed them to connect safely and quickly with friends and loved ones even when they could not be together with them in person.

“Research has proven what we intuitively know – that social connection is critical to our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Technology is a wonderful way to facilitate those connections when we cannot be together in person,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of AARP Foundation.

Here’s a video that can help you get connected to friends, family, favorite hobbies and what’s going on the world.

Technology provides older adults with the ability to live more fulfilling lives. “Many older adults I speak with are very grateful for how modern technology has improved their lives,” says Ryerson. They are able to enjoy their later years more than they ever thought they would.”

To learn more about the free resources, research and workshops available, please visit fintech.aarpfoundation.org.

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