Recently I have had conversations with my parents about how frustrating it is to watch them use the computer. Whereas I might scan a website for buttons or links, my mom actually spends the time to read all the words. What a geezer!
But now, there is some new research that says these old fogeys might not be the Luddites we once thought. Don’t worry though, I completely disagree.
Below are some sections from an article written by Chris O’Brien at The Mercury News, along with my response.
“When it comes to listening to music on iPods, blogging, downloading podcasts, joining Facebook, and using Twitter, the over-35 crowd is adopting everything from social media to consumer electronics at a faster rate than their Generation Y (ages 18 to 24) counterparts.”
Faster doesn’t mean better, and faster doesn’t mean that they are actually using these tools the right way. More on this later.
“These figures challenge some deeply held stereotypes about technology and age. Tech companies, often obsessed with designing for youth and hiring young, should take heed of this emerging powerhouse to think differently about their products, and where growth and opportunity may be found.”
I don’t place all older people in the same basket, and I don’t think tech companies do either. After all, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are some of the most revered icons of my generation. I also doubt that either would say that they based their successful companies obsessing about youth or hiring young.
“Baby boomers are embracing popular consumer technology applications nearly 20 times faster than the younger generation.”
This quote from an Accenture study is misleading. First of all, what the heck are “consumer technology applications?” I have a feeling this category could encompass such technology-laden products as toasters, microwaves, and pencil sharpeners. Hey, they have a digital readout, that’s technology right?
In all seriousness, right now boomers are definitely embracing new (to them) technology much faster than Gen Y. But that’s because they all waited to see if it was viable technology. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but don’t make it seem like the baby boomers are fast adopters of technology. They are playing catch up after sitting scared on the sidelines for years.
“Over the past year, the percentage of boomers listening to podcasts or reading blogs jumped 67 percent, to 26 percent. The percentage of Generation Y stayed flat at 45 percent.”
This is definitely a large increase in blog/podcast usage. However, these are some of the older and more vetted “new” technologies (blogs have been around since the 90’s), so it just means that the boomers were waiting to take the jump until it was adopted by everyone else.
“During the same period, the percentage of boomers watching or posting videos online climbed 35 percent, to 36 percent. The percentage of Generation Y doing the same dropped almost 2 percent to 67 percent.”
We’re still way ahead of you here. And why do you think boomers are watching so many videos? “Hey mom come check this out…”
I must admit that 36 percent of the baby boomer population is probably a lot more people than 67 percent of Generation Y. Older people have bad eyesight so hopefully they won’t see this!
“Finally, the percentage of boomers playing mobile video games climbed 52 percent to 13 percent. The percentage of Generation Y climbed just under 2 percent to 45 percent.”
It’s not hard to climb 52% when you only started at 7-8%.
“According to Inside Facebook, a Web site that reports on the social networking king, the fastest-growing segment of users over the past 60 days is people over 35 (that’s me!). While the biggest segment of members are still 18 to 25 (19.5 million), there are now 13.4 million members who are 35 to 54 — a figure that ballooned 276 percent over the past six months.”
I’d like to take this opportunity to emphatically point out that a rise in usage (albeit dramatic) does not speak to how this older audience is using Facebook. For example, my aunts and uncles that have joined Facebook use it either as a professional networking/communication tool (confusing it with LinkedIn) or join because someone invites them, and never really use it or keep their profile active.
Fastest growing means only that tons are signing up, not that they are actually using Facebook at all or the right way after that. Maybe next month there will be statistics about how old people are using it for longer times than us Generation Y folks. Is that because old people are doing more on facebook? I’d argue it just takes them longer to do things!
Okay, okay, right now you are probably thinking I need to lay off the energy drinks and that I should receive a spanking for being so contemptuous to my elders.
The fact is that I’m just scared, because O’Brien is right: baby boomers are adopting technology at a scary new pace. You can’t imagine how embarrassing it is every time an older person tells me about some newfangled program I haven’t even heard of. But although I agree with the fact that tech companies should keep the older demographic in mind, I’m just not sure that’s what they need to be worrying about. These are not, and will never be the early adopters of new technology. They are more in-line with the late majority technology adopters, which explains the recent surge of use. And please stop reminding me that older people are becoming more tech-savvy (it totally weirds me out). I was kinda hoping online would forever be the realm of the young and restless.