Baby boomers and technology have reached a sometimes-uneasy truce of late. Long considered technophobes and even Luddites, baby boomers are turning to technology in all sorts of ways because they are discovering that technology makes their lives better. Here is how:
How Do Baby Boomers Use Technology? To answer that question, here are my baker’s dozen ways we Boomers use technology:
- Home health care
- Computers and laptops
- Social Networking
- Read email
- Online banking
- Online shopping
- Online news sites
- Flat-screen TVs
- Entertainment Equipment
- Online learning
So, how do you measure up to the baker’s dozen list? Some of us might use all 13. Some of us Boomers do not use any, but I doubt they will see this list at all.
- 1 A Baker’s Dozen of Boomer Technologies
- 1.1 1. G.P.S.
- 1.2 2. Home health care
- 1.3 3. Smartphones
- 1.4 4. Computers and laptops
- 1.5 5. Social networking
- 1.6 6. Read email
- 1.7 7. Online shopping
- 1.8 8. Online banking
- 1.9 9. iPads and tablets
- 1.10 10. Kindles and e-readers
- 1.11 11. Online news sites
- 1.12 12. Flat-screen TVs and entertainment equipment
- 1.13 13. Online learning
- 2 Why do Baby Boomers use technology?
- 3 How do you compare?
- 4 Related Links
A Baker’s Dozen of Boomer Technologies
Bloomers get a bad rap as technophobes and Luddites. The stereotype of helping Grandpa with his phone is just not true. Boomers have had to adapt to new technology in virtually every decade of our lives. Now, Boomers are using technology every day. As boomers, we use technology; we do not worship it. Now, entering 60s and 70s, we are still enthusiastic about technology
GPS stands for Global Positioning System. It is a U.S.-operated system that involves a network of orbiting satellites that allow those with GPS receivers to determine their three-dimensional position on Earth. Portable GPS-based navigation systems geared toward boomers often feature larger screens and improved readability. What GPS really means is that huge folded paper maps our parents loved to argue over while on vacation are, thankfully, obsolete. Across the country, across the county, or across the street, GPS is a technology go-to choice for baby boomers. The bottom line: 75% of Boomers get directions or traffic info via smartphone.
My wife and I took an 18-month sabbatical in our 40-foot diesel pusher motor home to tour the country. GPS was indispensable while navigating exits, dump stations, low bridges, and the location of the next Walmart.
2. Home health care
Technology has greatly simplified home health care in many respects. For example, I monitor my heart daily with a device and accompanying app called Kardia. It sends a single lead ECG to my cardiologist every day. The app also sends my blood pressure as well, using an automated device by Omron. It is scary, however, when you get a call from the cardiologists’ office saying you need to come in right now! Talk about service. It would not be possible without technology. The bottom line is that I have only been in the emergency room once in the last five years to be shocked back into rhythm. That is certainly an improvement over the previous five years, thanks to technology.
Name a malady and there is probably an app for it. Blood sugar levels, pain levels, and diet control all have very helpful apps.
The Covid-19 virus has brought another technological tool to the forefront: Virtual doctor appointments. My GP used to require in-person visits to renew prescriptions. The last two appointments have been virtual appointments. Quick. Easy. And as close as my computer monitor with no waiting in the reception room. Both were right on time, too! That is a very welcome change for me.
According to Pew Research, Baby Boomers continue to trail both Gen Xers and Millennials on most measures of technology adoption, but adoption rates for our group have been growing rapidly in recent years. For example, Boomers are now far more likely to own a smartphone than they were in 2011 (68% now vs. 25% then). Look around. You probably have a smartphone within three feet of you right now unless, of course, it is charging in another room.
4. Computers and laptops
Computers are everywhere. 71% of baby boomers use a laptop daily according to SalesFuel. 90%+ of adults over 60 own a computer or laptop. Some, like me, own two or three. The uses are endless.
Technology has revolutionized genealogy and family history. I am passionate about family history. I like it because dead people do not talk back like live people – at least, not very often. Technology has revolutionized genealogical research. There was a time that to review a census record, you had to order microfilm, wait for weeks to get it, and spend hours squinting at blurry images in a microfilm reader at the local library. Now, virtually all of the United States census returns from 1790 to 1940 are available online, and most are indexed. Now, they are all as close as any computer with an internet connection thanks to websites like Ancestry and Family Search.
Strange as it seems, knitting is another hobby that has been advanced by computers. Finding and cataloging patterns, researching yarns, and collaborating with other knitters are all immensely easier thanks to computers.
Family bookkeeping got a whole lot easier with the advent of computers. Quicken, Quickbooks, and a hundred other tools help us manage our finances.
5. Social networking
Boomers really like Facebook — 65% prefer this social network to any others. Compare this to 33% for Millennials. 70%+ of adults over 60 are on social media and 91% of adults over 50 use devices to stay in touch with friends and family. Boomers represent 1/3 of all online and social media users.
6. Read email
How long has it been since you wrote a letter and sent it snail mail? Ever since Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan popularized the statement “You’ve got mail,” our generation has been early adopters and loyal followers of email. Almost 90% of people over 60 read or send emails daily according to AllConnect. It is how we stay in touch now. From our perspective, it works. We see no reason to change.
7. Online shopping
The advent of the Covid-19 virus has certainly accelerated the online shopping process. Before Covid-10, 1/3 of Boomers shopped online and spent almost $7B. I am sure it is much, much higher now. In fact, according to SKULocal, Boomers spend on average $203 per transaction online. Key categories for this group of shoppers include:
- Pharmacy and healthcare products
- Household goods and appliances
- Books (physical and digital)
- Cosmetics and skin care
The vast majority of Boomers – over 80% — research a product online before making a major purchase. For them, the authenticity of content is tied to information: they want relevant content about a product or service. And they want it in writing; while Millennials prefer information delivered in 140 characters, Boomers are avid readers. More often than not, 1000 words are worth far more than a picture.
8. Online banking
How long has it been since you have been in a bank? 45% of Baby Boomers and Seniors actively use online or mobile banking (The Financial Brand). You can now check balances, transfer money, set up accounts, keep track of credit and debit card activity, or even deposit checks online with no waiting lines. And, you can do it all in your bathrobe if you choose. Security is another issue with boomers. Online banking is safe and secure.
9. iPads and tablets
So, what’s the allure of iPads for the boomer? Primarily, iPads have much of the multi-functionality of a smartphone (with the exception of the phone part), the portability of an e-reader, and — perhaps most importantly — a nice big screen. Imagine a smartphone with a bigger screen and no incoming scam-likely phone calls. Delightful.
Boomers have need for the iPod, as well. About half of all younger boomers listen to online music (as do nearly two in five older boomers), and about one in five boomers download podcasts [source: Pew].
The popularity of iPods played no small part in this. For boomers who remember jogging around a track with a comparatively gigantic Sony Walkman in their hand, the iPod is a welcome — and tiny — addition to their lives.
10. Kindles and e-readers
As I said earlier, boomers live to read. With a Kindle and an Amazon Prime subscription, the world is your oyster. You have a virtually endless array of books available on virtually any topic. You can get a refurbished Kindle for under $80 now on Amazon.
11. Online news sites
Boomers devour written content. We love to read. We were raised on newspapers. Boomers are purposeful, goal-oriented internet users. When they go online, they’re looking for something. The 24-hour news cycle dominates the news today. A Boomer’s thirst for news can be satisfied immediately on line. For a generation that grew up with the printed page and the nightly news anchors, online news is nirvana. However, there is a warning about online news. Too much of it can drive you crazy.
I have a suggestion. Pick a local channel you trust and follow their website. Pick a national channel you trust and follow it, too, online. Then, look further on individual topics and research further. After you’ve spent some time in personal research, make your own decision. Don’t just follow party dogma. If we all approach the news in that manner, we will all be better off and better informed.
I once lived in a major market where the owner of one station basically financed the state democrat party. He championed land use, environmental issues, and labor issues. His station always ran second in the ratings to a station that was owned by a dominant conservative force. The joke in the market was that you had to watch both stations and average them out to even get halfway close to the truth.
That being said, I still have a feeling that our individual selections will tend to follow party lines.
12. Flat-screen TVs and entertainment equipment
OK, let’s see by a show of hands how many of you have a big-screen television in your home. We were the first television generation. After all, we were raised on the Howdy Duty Show and the Mickey Mouse Club. Now, Boomers have more time. Doesn’t it make sense that television is still a big part of our lives? Prices have come down dramatically, too. You can now get a 32″ LED television at Walmart for under $100 and a 65″ Samsung from Amazon for under $700. Nobody really likes their imagery small, pixilated, and accompanied by tinny sound. So it’s no surprise that boomers appreciate the perks and features of watching movies or TV shows on a large LCD or plasma flat-screen with audio being piped through the surround-sound speakers of their home entertainment systems.
13. Online learning
College is no longer just for 20-somethings. Plenty of students are going back to school at age 40 or even older to earn degrees in business, computer science, and other fields. What’s more, they’re doing it their way and making the most of online education options. Many boomers are going back to school either to improve their job skills or just because they want to increase there knowledge base. Online learning is now a very viable option.
Schools.com recently presented the following four facts about why Baby Boomers are choosing the web to continue their high education:
- #1: Mom and dad aren’t still footing the bill.
- #2: Older students want flexibility and they’re picking majors that work well online.
- #3: “Making memories” isn’t a priority.
- #4: They aren’t hung up on how they get a degree.
You can read the details here if you want to do your homework.
Why do Baby Boomers use technology?
Baby Boomers use technology because it makes life easier. Would you rather dig a ditch with a spoon, a shovel, or a backhoe? Technology is the backhoe of life. The driving force for boomers is “Will it make my life easier?”
How do you compare?
Count up how many of the thirteen types of technology in the last thirty days. How do you compare?
|11 or more||Maven – You are probably helping others, too|
|7-10||Tech Expert – You use technology as a tool to get done what you need to get done more quickly and efficiently.|
|4-6||Functional – You use technology but there is room for growth|
|1-3||Technophobe -at least you have started but you only use technology when you have to use it|
|0||Luddite – You are proud, true Luddite|
Personally, I scored 11. I do not have a Kindle and I do not have an iPad. To me, they are just toys. Post your score in the comments below.