Older people are embracing smart and social technology

While use of smartphones by people aged 65 and over is still lower than for other age groups, it increased sharply between 2015 and 2016, both for those aged 65-74 (39% vs.28%) and for over-75s (15% vs. 8%); the only two age groups for which use has increased.

Users aged 65-74 are also twice as likely in 2016 as in 2015 to nominate their mobile phone as the device they would miss the most (20% vs. 10%). Tablets, smart TVs and streaming media players like Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast are also becoming more popular among these age groups. Adults aged 65-74 are more likely in 2016 than in 2015 to have a tablet (51% vs. 39%), and those aged 75+ are also more likely to have a tablet (30% vs. 19% in 2015) and to use one (27% vs. 15% in 2015). Both age groups are more likely to use a smart TV (27% vs. 16% for 65-74s and 12%

vs. 4% for over-75s) and to have and use a streaming media player. 

There has also been a significant increase in the number of internet users aged 75 and over embracing social media, with 41% having a social media profile in 2016, compared to 19% in 2015.

Smartphones are becoming an essential tool for navigating daily life…

The results of both the qualitative and quantitative research show that the mobile phone is the device that the majority of people would miss the most (41%). The qualitative research also indicates a growing reliance on smartphones, as mobile internet becomes more

accessible and the smartphone is able to fulfil the role of various other devices. The use of smartphones to go online has not increased since 2015, but because adults are now less likely to go online via a computer (62% vs. 71% in 2015), they are proportionally

more likely to use a smartphone than a computer to go online (66% vs. 62%). There has also been an increase in people going online via tablets (49% vs. 45%) and streaming media players (9% vs. 5%). One in four internet users (24%) now only use a device other than a

computer to go online.

Smartphones are particularly important for newer users of the internet (those who first started using the internet within the last five years). Fifty-eight per cent of newer users ever use a smartphone to go online and 21% only go online via a smartphone. More than half of newer users (55%) only go online using a device other than a computer.

Both the qualitative and the quantitative research found that people were using technology, and in particular their smartphones, for more activities. For instance, the quantitative data shows that compared to 2015, smartphone users are more likely to say they have ever used

their phone as a ticket or boarding pass or to gain entry to an event (41% vs. 33%) or to make a contactless payment (28% vs. 20%), and that they use their phone on a weekly basis for contactless payments (14% vs. 9%). However, the more conventional core activities of phoning and texting are still valued: when asked which smartphone activities users would miss the most, the majority of users (69%) said phoning and/or texting. Although the smartphone is valued for its flexibility, some participants in the qualitative study also talked about sometimes feeling over-dependent on them, including feeling compelled to regularly ‘check’ their phone, even when in company, or feeling anxious when their phone was not close by.