Texting with Grandma: 5 Facts You Should Know About Seniors 55+

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

grandpa225By Zach Zimmerman

A commercial a while back featured a daughter showing her mom features of a phone. As her mom first got her hands on the technology, she squealed, “Oh my God, I just tweeted!” as if her click just launched the Space Shuttle. The cliché of a senior not knowing how to use a cell phone is prevalent in pop culture and advertising, but is it true? While older adults may not be as tech savvy as mobile-crazed Millennials, they’re not digital illiterates either. Here are five facts every digital marketer should know about America’s wisest generation.

1. Most seniors have mobile phones.

2012 was a tipping point for older adults and the digital divide. A majority of Americans 65+ now use the Internet or email (Pew Internet, 2012). Of older adults who use the Internet, over 85% have a mobile phone; Millennials boast 95% mobile penetration. (eMarketer, 2012)

2. About a quarter of seniors have smartphones.

Where the difference between grandma and grandson is most clear is with smartphones. Of those 57- to 67-year olds, only 28% have a smartphone, and of those 68 to 88, it’s only 16%. Meanwhile, Gen Zers, Millennials, and Gen Xers all boast more smartphones than feature phones. Further, most seniors are likely to have a Samsung or LG device, and are significantly less likely to own an iPhone. Of Samsung smartphone users, 53% are 57 to 88; of iPhone users, only 15% are 57 to 88. (eMarketer, 2012)

3. Seniors don’t use their mobile phones for entertainment.

While teens fill their time with SnapChat and Words with Friends, seniors are still more likely to watch TV to get their giggles. Some 63% of those 55+ identify television as their entertainment, while mobile phones only gather 2% of the older adult eyeballs. (eMarketer, 2012)

4. Seniors participate in SMS sweepstakes, but not as frequently as younger consumers.

A recent ePrize study of SMS promotions found most SMS sweepstakes and instant-win promotions were played by those under 45 years old (67.4%). Even still, consumers 55+ accounted for 13.3% of overall participation, a healthy percentage for the age bracket.

5. Seniors use their mobile phones for practical purposes.

Seniors are interested in using their mobile devices to get practical information, such as SMS prescription alerts, severe weather alerts, or appointment reminders. In “Baby Boomers and the Digital Life,” eMarketer writes, “Though boomers tend to be less digitally engaged than younger adults in many areas, it would be a mistake to assume their usage is low across the board. Boomers are not averse to engaging in digital activities whose practical benefit is clear to them.”

Mobile Take Off

On a recent early morning flight to New York, an older woman sat down next to me. A bit flustered, she pulled out her flip phone and texted a loved one to let them know she made the flight. In general, seniors aren’t concerned about adopting the latest tech craze just to be hip; what’s more important to them is using the technology they’ve already adopted to make their lives easier and stay connected to the people and brands they care about most. For marketers looking to engage Baby Boomers and beyond, mobile can be a powerful resource; but keeping in mind these five facts will help to navigate the gray area when targeting the gray-haired.

Zach Zimmerman is an ePrize mobile account manager. Text ZACH to 30364 or email him at Zach.Zimmerman@eprize.com.

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