Use of smartphones among the retiree age group has surged over the past year as older Australians challenge stereotypes, according to a new report.
Deloitte’s mobile consumer survey found that smartphone ownership among older Australians increased by almost 10 per cent since last year. It polled thousands of Australians online between June-July 2016 and May-July 2017.
It found 78 per cent of seniors aged 65 to 75 own a smartphone, up from 69 per cent in 2016, as well as 82 per cent of 55 to 64-year-olds, suggesting it is not just the millennials and Gen X embracing new technologies.
“Rampant ageism means that society still regards 64 to 75-year-olds as doddery people in an aged care home,” Monash University healthy ageing researcher Dr Harriet Radermacher said.
“The reality is that an increasing majority of this cohort are very active and more socially engaged than ever.”
Griffith University’s Dr David Tuffley, who researches the impact of technology on quality of life, said he was not surprised by the keen uptake of mobile technology by seniors.
“The older demographic are discovering the benefits of social media to connect them with family and friends – that’s the main reason – but they also like buying stuff, looking up health-related information and accessing government services,” he said.
“Local and state governments are increasingly funding digital literacy training in retirement and aged care facilities – the operators of these places also assist as it keeps their residents happy.
”Times are changing. The digital divide probably still exists with the 75-plus demographic, but of course that figure will push north when the 65-plus demographic, who are tech savvy, get older.”
Dr Tuffley said he could forsee virtual reality being popular among this age group, particularly for “virtual tourism”.
University of Melbourne’s Dr Jenny Waycott, a senior lecturer in computing and information systems, added that smartphone technology provides an opportunity for cross-generational social connection.
She said she was aware of an American woman aged in her early 80s who takes videos of her Skyrim game play and has attracted a global following.
“For those who aren’t familiar with the desktop computer interface, smartphones are an easier means of accessing the internet,” she said.
“Older people can be vulnerable to social isolation or can have limited mobility as they age which gives them less opportunity to get outside.
“[Seniors] who learn how to use the technology are sharing that learning with their peers. The more individuals embrace technology, the more we’ll see a snowball effect.”