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If I hear one more person tell me that they have an “older” client who doesn’t use a computer, doesn’t text, doesn’t like Facebook and doesn’t watch online video, I’m going to scream.

I don’t know where this idea came from – that Baby Boomers and Seniors don’t use technology – but it just won’t go away. It’s one of those urban myths – like they staged the moon landing on a movie set – that just won’t go away. Maybe it gives some people comfort to think there are other hold-outs to modernity, too. But unlike most other absurd claims, this one is frequently harmful to the (dis)believers. Every moment they prevent themselves from believing that older people don’t get technology, the tighter they screw the lid down on their growth potential.

It’s a very old myth, and widely spread. I’ve heard it in every state, and multiple continents. Even those the middle-aged people who once sat in my class with their arms folded like Motorola Razr phone, insisting their clients demanded newspaper ads, didn’t use Twitter and didn’t even have high speed internet have now become the very age of  people they said didn’t use technology. Only now they’re arguing with me about it in a Facebook group, from their iPad, connected by wireless broadband .

So, when this little gem came across my screen today, I couldn’t resist sharing it. According to Nielsen, “soon-to-be” Senior citizens are buying smartphones at the fastest growing rate of any group of Americans. To wit:

Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 are adopting smartphones at a faster rate than any other age group. Just about 30 percent of all mobile-equipped, soon-to-be seniors now own a smartphone, marking a five percent jump over Q2 of this year.

Yes, seniors and boomers aren’t adopting smartphones as fast as Gen X or Gen Y, but that doesn’t mean they’re still ringing up Ernestine and asking to be connected to Murdock-5-8608. There’s probably lots of things they’re not adopting as fast as other groups – like crocs or Lady Gaga – but that doesn’t mean they’re sitting disconnected in an easy chair, flipping through the Sears catalog waiting four to six weeks for home delivery! In fact, it’s not just smartphones that older Americans are adopting at record pace. Pew Research notes that boomers and seniors have already adopted new technologies at high rates.

  • 50-59% of younger boomers (45-55) use social media; 40-49% of older boomers, and 10-19% of seniors do, too
  • 50-59% of older boomers (56-65) watch video online; 40-49% of seniors (65-73) do as well
  • Nearly 40% of people over the age of 74 do online banking
That last stat should put to rest any belief that “older” Americans prefer realtors who write classified in the newspaper, send them hand-written notes and don’t want them to whip out an iPad in a listing presentation.

 

I’ve often thought that this persistent misunderstanding of the modern consumer was because people generalized from an exception. They had one older client who didn’t have a smartphone or a computer or running water and therefore they extrapolated that all of their older clients wouldn’t have it either. But even if that were true, does it make sense to think they don’t want their doctor, attorney, banker, and especially real estate agent to use them, nonetheless?

 

More likely, I’ve observed that we want to believe the world is the way we’d like it to be. Maybe we’re not comfortable using these newfangled gadgets. Maybe we’re concerned about the money it will take to buy them, or the time it will take to learn to use them. All valid concerns; but none entitles us to our own facts. And the fact is that older Americans not only control most of the wealth in the country. They’re spending it on plenty of high tech gadgets to use. At any age.

Which means that as long as you’re hoping to earn their business, you’d better not be counting on the fact that they don’t use technology; or expect you to show up with it, either. Let’s put this myth to bed once and for all.