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Most of us as children want to grow up quickly. We envision being an adult and enjoying all the benefits that go with it. As adults, many of us cringe as we get older, hitting major age milestones that occur much quicker than we thought possible! 

Unless they’ve failed to share it with the rest of the world, no one has been able to invent a product or method to prevent aging. It’s a natural part of life. 

In the United States, there are more than 56 million adults ages 65 and older. That number, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is estimated to grow to 80 million by 2040 — about one-quarter of the total population. 

Unfortunately, getting older often coincides with more physical ailments. About 85 percent of older adults have at least one chronic condition, and more than half deal with two. The most prevalent of these chronic conditions are hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, coronary heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, heart failure, depression, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. 

Based on these facts, it’s not astonishing that older adults account for 25 percent of all physician office visits and 40 percent of all drug prescriptions. They represent about 45 percent of the top 10 percent of healthcare utilizers, representing more than half of the country’s total healthcare expenditures. 

Examining the Numbers

Until recently, the older adult age group wasn’t considered much of a part of the discussion around technology. Many individuals assumed these adults either had no idea how to utilize most technology or didn’t have confidence in their ability to do so. 

These misconceptions certainly aren’t fully erroneous, but the past few years have caused a shift in how – and how often — older adults use technology. An increasing number of adults 65+ are not only utilizing technology but also investing in it.

Sometimes, numbers paint the clearest picture. In this blog, we’re using results from two sets of research, one conducted by AARP and the other by the Pew Research Center, to debunk five common myths about older adults and technology.

Myth #1: Older Adults Dislike New Technology

  •  Half of older adults want to learn more about using technology.
  • More than 80 percent of older adults use technology in some form to stay connected.
  • More older adults view technology more positively as a way to stay connected than they did before COVID-19.
  • Older adults spend an average of $1,144 on technology, up from $394 in 2019. The top three tech purchases are smartphones, smart TVs and Bluetooth.

Myth #2: Few Older Adults Use Smartphones

  • Use of smartphones by older adults has increased to 40 percent, primarily for activities such as participating in telehealth visits, ordering prescriptions or making appointments.
  • Approximately 80 percent of those 50 to 64 and 61 percent of those 65 and older own a smartphone.

Myth #3: Most Older Adults Adults Don’t Surf the Internet

  • More than three-fourths of those 65 and older report being internet users.
  • Roughly 75 percent of older adults with an internet connection use it daily.
  • Presence on social media among Americans 65 and older has grown about fourfold since 2010.

Myth #4: Older Adults Utilize Outdated Technology

  • Approximately 45 percent of those 65 and older own a tablet. 
  • Almost 70 percent of these individuals use their tablets daily. 

The most utilized mobile devices by older adults — surpassed only by smartphones — are tablets. Why? Because they offer similar capabilities to that of a computer but are lighter with a larger screen. The majority of tablets are designed with a touch-based interface, an added advantage for older adults. 

Myth #5: Older Adults Can’t Use Video Technology

  • One in three older adults uses video chat weekly.
  • The percentage of older adults who had participated in a telehealth visit rose sharply from four percent in May 2019 to 30 percent in June 2020. 
  • Telehealth use among older adults in 2022 was similar to 2020 rates, meaning that interest in it hasn’t markedly waned. 

Advantages for Activities of Daily Living 

Technology used for healthcare remains common among all age groups, whether it’s for scheduling an appointment, looking up symptoms, paying a medical bill, requesting prescription refills or other similar tasks. The recently released 2022 Patient Access Journey Report from our colleagues at Kyruus found that the internet is still the top spot for consumer research (61 percent) when it comes to finding care. 

What advantages, though, does technology, including the proliferation of digital health tools, offer older adults? More than you might think. 

First, it’s important to note that older adults are more likely to use technology when they perceive a benefit. They prefer technology tools that assist them in routine tasks and activities and those that enable them to “age in place.” Most older adults want to live at home and be independent as much as possible for as long as possible. 

From sensor technology and medication reminders to assistive technologies and telehealth, digital health resources support — and even improve — activities of daily living, personal health and safety, mobility, physical activity and communication. They enable older adults to complete tasks more easily, especially ones promoting healthy behaviors, thereby helping to prevent or reduce illness. 

Digital health programs offer increased access to healthcare for older adults living in rural or underserved areas of the U.S. Some who started using technology during the COVID-19 pandemic to mitigate social isolation are now using those same tools to more conveniently communicate with their physicians. 

Many healthcare providers employ digital health programs to help patients with chronic conditions manage their care. The result is not only better outcomes but also reduced healthcare spending. There’s even a decreased burden on doctors, helping to reduce physician burnout. 

In a study published in Frontiers in Digital Health, older adult users of a commercially available, fully digital health platform exhibited greater engagement than younger adults. Despite potential barriers, older adults readily adopted digital health technologies. 

Learn how Epion’s Digital Check-In platform enables patients of all ages to easily find and schedule care, complete pre-visit tasks and meaningfully engage with their providers.