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Using health technology when you're over 50

Published : Monday April 4, 2016 | Posted in : E-Health & Technology

There's a common stereotype that revolves around the older generation and technology. They haven't kept up with younger ones in terms of technology use, they still prefer paperbacks to Kindles, their phones look like the type that still has Snake II, but we're starting to see a change...

What are the statistics?

In the UK there's a rising trend of the over-55s buying tablets, and loving using them. It's risen from 1% in 2011 to 37% in 2015. Ofcom predicts that by the end of 2016, 44% of those over the age of 55 will own a tablet - something usually associated with younger generations is having a major shift. Across the pond, statistics from the Pew Research Centre in America showed that in 2012, more than half of adults aged 65 and above used the internet and in 2013, there was a six percent rise in these numbers.

Why haven't they kept up in previous years?

In the past there were blocks to tech-use such as:

  • Physical challenges: Health conditions such as arthritis and failing eyesight make it difficult to use smartphones or mobiles. However, devices are becoming more user-friendly with disability-compatible offering on the market - such as the Breezie - that offers a simplified interface for a Samsung tablet.
  • Sceptical attitudes: The internet has proven itself to be a long-term provider for all ages. Information, socialising and shopping are easily available - particularly to those who might find it hard to go out or are retired.
  • Difficulties learning to use new technologies: Disinterest and expectations that it's too hard may have put older adults off. Now they've learned at work before retirement, taken a course or been introduced by a relative who finds it second nature.

How is it changing?

The new over-55s are evolving into a generation of tech users to rival the youths. The retired may well have used the internet and devices at work but 20 years ago this was not the case. Let's not forget the over 55's invented the internet! Tim Berners-Lee is 60.

Although you may think reliance on the Internet might dull brain power, new research shows that increasing demands of the internet and technology is improving mental agility in the over 50. Researchers have found the over-50s are sharper - they now score better on cognitive tests due to the mental simulation of computers and mobiles.

The over-55s are also more likely to use health gadgets than 30-40 years olds. The second annual State of Nation report questioned 2,000 adults and 546 teenagers, and found over half the over-55s would have medical details stored on jewellery microchips compared to 36% of younger generations. Nearly 23% would have one placed under their skin compared to 20% of younger folk.

They're also more likely to use health tech like blood sugar level monitors, mole checkers and blood pressure monitors. A third of over-55s use these technologies compared to 12% of younger people - although a large percentage of that may be due to fewer health complications experienced when you are younger.

Why is it changing?

The younger section of the over 55's are composed of people who have used tech in their younger years, but other factors have increased the older section's use. Social media connects them to widespread family - for example Facebook and emailing. They're also more likely to get better deals online such as car insurance that result in greater incentives to learn. Health conditions have great appeal too - providing support for patients and promoting independence.

Overall it must be good news that older adults are getting more involved in tech. It's a social activity, improves health and increases mental abilities. If your grandparents aren't online or using text - why not get them started.

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