Research Outline

Mobile device usage - seniors (65+)


To identify 3-5 top insights around mobile device usage among either seniors (65+) or those with long-term disabilities.

Early Findings

Smartphone Ownership

  • Those aged between 65 to 74 are more likely to own a smartphone (59%), with the rate dropping from 59% to 40% among those 75 years and older.

Daily Use

  • In an AARP technology use survey published in January 2020, 94% of adults aged 50+ who own a smartphone access it daily. When broken down into smaller age groups, 97% of those between 50 and 59 use their smartphone every day, with 95% of those in their sixties using it daily and that figure reduces down to 88% for those aged 70 and above who use their smartphone on a daily basis.
  • AARP's 2018 survey on technology use (published in 2019) found that 54% of respondents 50+ and older use text messages on a daily basis, 49% connect daily via email, 43% use social media on a daily basis while only 6% use video chat daily. Please note that these figures are for all technology devices, not just smartphones.

Internet Use

  • The rate of those aged 65+ who are more likely to use a smartphone to access the internet, rather than a computer or other device, has increased from 2% in 2013 to 15% in 2019.
  • Reasons for smartphone use by those over 65 do vary though the respondents in this survey liked to "keep track of events, research information, enjoy hobbies, and to stay connected with loved ones."
  • A survey by AARP also had a similar response, with those aged 50+ saying they used their smartphones to check emails (83%) and social media (55%), to look for things online (58%) or to get directions or traffic updates (68%). It noted that older people didn't always use technology to its full extent.
  • AARP's survey found that 55% of seniors (aged 50+) browse social media on their smartphone as it allows senors to stay in touch or "check in", which is now easier to do even if family and friends are geographically dispersed. However, respondents indicated that they don't often share their own content.

Other Reasons for Using a Smartphone

  • AARP's 2019 technology trends surveyed 1019 people, 635 between the ages 50 to 64 and 384 aged 65 and older. The data set is also broken down into gender.
  • On page 4 of this report is a detailed breakdown of smartphone usage. For example, 36% of those aged over 65 use their smartphone to play games compared to 51% between 50 and 64.
  • 29% who are 65+ do their banking on their phones, a reduction from 48% of those aged between 50 and 64.
  • Making medical appointments, talking with health professionals or ordering prescriptions is another reason that people use their smartphones though there is less of a variance between the two age groups. (27% over 65 years of age, 31% of those aged between 50 and 64).

Summary of Additional One Hour of Research Relevant to the Goals

  • We identified several credible surveys and studies on mobile phone usage for seniors which have been published in the last 18 months.
  • We note that some sources (primarily AARP) identified a person as senior if they were over the age of 50, though for others the senior cohort was aged 65+. Due to the credibility and recency of the AARP surveys we have opted to include their usage statistics here. We have differentiated the findings based on those distinctions.
  • It is likely that AARP has published a breakdown of the actual survey questions and age categories for their 2020 study, as they did for their 2019 survey, which will allow us to further qualify these early findings.