AARP on older adults’ digital habits and attitudes on healthcare companies

Recently, AARP did a major study on how people in their 50s, 60s and 70s use digital devices, what they search for, and who they trust. Some of the interesting findings were around healthcare—what devices they used most, and for what purposes.

Called “Technology Use and Attitudes among Mid-Life and Older Americans,” it was led by G. Oscar Anderson, Senior Research Communications Advisor for AARP. It surveyed 1520 adults 50 and older, and was weighted by age within gender, education, race/ethnicity, household income, language preferences and census division to fairly represent the U.S. population over 50. The margin of error is estimated at 2.71% at the 95% confidence level.

Some of the key findings overall:

  • Mobile and traditional computing devices are now the primary technology used by Americans over 50
  • 9/10 own a desktop or laptop computer, 7/10 a smartphone, and 4/10 a tablet
  • Not surprisingly, those over 70 tend to use desktops and feature phones more than those in their 50s or 60s
  • Very few use wearables or home assistants, or are familiar with virtual reality or augmented reality
  • A sizable minority use their devices to manage medical care or learn online
    • 42% get health and fitness info on their computer
    • 32% manage or receive medical care on their computer

A deeper dive into the study reveals some facts of interest to marketers in healthcare. For instance, among online learning activities, health and fitness info comes in first:

Even on tablets—a lesser-used technology among older Americans—33% search health and fitness info, and 17% are already managing or receiving medical care, possibly through their doctors’ web portals.

Healthcare also comes up on phones for a sizable minority of users. Around three in ten smartphone users do these activities on their phones: where getting health and fitness info and managing medical care come in third and fourth

As with most digital transactions, older Americans join the rest of the country in being skeptical about how their information is used and how much they trust the companies they contact. Yet, despite the recent downturn in the image of our industry, healthcare companies come in second, after banks and financial institutions, in inspiring trust.


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