At the respective ages of 96 and 94, Mark and Gloria Charness are still able to live independently in their Toronto home, thanks in part to their tech savvy. Mark manages their finances and watches the stock market online. And Gloria keeps up with family via Skype and email — both of which help their son, Neil Charness, check in on them from his own home in Florida. Charness, who is also the director of the Institute for Successful Longevity, says that even when severe hip pain recently left his mother essentially bedridden, he was confident his parents would be able to remain independent because of their technological capabilities.
Today’s seniors have adapted to massive technological changes in their lifetimes, from ATMs to PCs to smartphones. By 2029, the youngest baby boomers (defined as US adults born between 1946 and 1964) will turn 65, making an entire generation senior citizens who will make up more than 20% of the U.S. population. But far from being a stereotype of older people resistant to adopting technology, according to a survey from AARP, 91% of people age 50 and up own a computer and 75% own a smartphone. Half of respondents also say they’re interested in new tech, such as smart TVs, home assistants, and virtual reality. “For the most part, older adults are not as tech phobic as they’re made out to be,” Neil Charness says.
And technology is fundamentally changing the experience of aging at a time when the global population of older adults is growing rapidly. By 2030, the number of people around the world who are age 60 and up is projected to grow by 56% to 1.4 billion, accounting for one in six people. By 2050, that count is expected to rise even further to 2.1 billion.
Frances Ayalasomayajula, head of population health worldwide at HP, says in her research on older adults, the concerns that come up over and over again are all areas where technology can make a huge impact. “They want to stay as independent as they can for as long as they can,” she says. “The things that are front and center are security, privacy, access to information, and staying connected with a community.”