My friend John surprised me last week when he told me that for the first time in a year he’d hauled out his computer to do some work. He said, “If I can’t do it on my smartphone these days, it doesn’t get done.”

John’s specific demographic is embracing smartphone technology at a rapid pace. John is under the age of 70 and has a household income over $75,000 and a college degree.

According to the Pew Research Center, 81 percent of older Americans whose annual household income is $75,000 or more say they own smartphones, compared to 27 percent of those living in households earning less than $30,000 a year. Two-thirds of seniors with bachelor’s or advanced degrees report owning smartphones compared with 27 percent for those who have not gone beyond high school.

A smartphone is a cellular telephone with an integrated computer and other features not originally associated with telephones, including an operating system, web browsing and the ability to run software applications.

I was curious as to whether switching to a mobile device as the primary “computer,” such as John had done, was becoming more common. According to a 2016 AARP study, portable device options such as smartphones and tablets continue to grow among Americans age 50-plus, while traditional computing has flattened or declined.

Today, roughly half of older adults who own cellphones have some type of smartphone. That number has doubled in the last four years.

What do seniors do with their smartphones? Emailing, visiting websites, reading news and getting directions are the most common activities.

Sixty percent of older smartphone users have downloaded an app. A mobile app is a computer program designed to run on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet computer. Common apps used by age 50-and-over consumers include Skype, Web MD and Facebook; those that provide a magnifying glass (like iMagnifier) are also popular.

While some seniors can become frustrated with new technology— and reminiscence about “simpler times”—the fact is the internet plays an increasingly central role in connecting seniors and their family caregivers to information, government services, health resources and opportunities for social support.

Seniors are using the web to connect with relatives, loved ones and old friends. Studies show that this connection has helped reduce isolation, loneliness and depression.


For homebound seniors, the internet is the gateway to the outside world in real time, keeping them informed about what’s going on more quickly than traditional television programming.


It’s easy to see how smartphone adoption continues to drive connectedness in the senior world, but using one can be confusing to some. A majority of older adults say they need assistance when it comes to new digital devices, with 77 percent saying they would need someone to help walk them through the process.

Would you like to learn more about the emerging digital age of seniors?

The 2017 Ventura County Senior Summit next month will focus on digital technology as a useful tool for seniors to connect socially, maintain independence and access services to address their needs.

The summit will take place from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 21 at Cal State Channel Islands. There will be technology-related workshops designed specifically for seniors, along with demonstrations by local experts.

Registration begins Oct. 2. You can learn more by going to senior-summit-2017 or calling the office of Supervisor Linda Parks at (805) 214-2510.

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