Seniors Surveyed on Aging in Place With the Help of Technology
The nation’s population is getting older. The number of people age 65 and older in the United States has grown from 35 million in 2000 to approximately 55 million in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In March 2023, U.S. News & World Report surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults age 55 and older to learn how they are using assistive technologies in their homes and the ways they plan to use these devices to help them age in place. The overwhelming majority of respondents (93%) agree that aging in place – “the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – is an important goal for them.
This survey takes a deeper look at why older adults are – or are not – using assistive and health-related technologies, their goals of aging in place, which technologies they use the most, and some of the experiences they’ve had while using these technologies.
General Aging Is the Top Reason Adults 55 and Up Use Health-Related Technologies
Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimates, for the first time ever, there will be more older adults in the United States than children in the coming decades. By 2034, the bureau projects that there will be 77 million people aged 65 and over, compared to 76.5 million under the age of 18.
With the nation aging, there are many reasons adults over the age of 55 may choose to incorporate health-related technologies into their day-to-day routines, but nearly half (49%) of the respondents claim that general aging is their primary reason. Mobility impairments (28%), such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, and hearing impairments (22%) are the second- and third-most-reported catalysts for using assistive or health-related technologies.
Of the 47% surveyed who say they don't use assistive or health-related technologies, the overwhelming majority (70%), simply don’t feel that they need them yet. Another 16% share that they can’t afford the technologies, and 14% reject the technologies because they don’t want to lose their independence.
Older adults have been increasingly embracing technology in the last two decades. About 75% of adults 65 and older are internet users, up from just 19% in 2000, and more than half of people 65 and older (61%) are now smartphone owners, according to the Pew Research Center.
What Matters Most When Using These Technologies
Based on our survey, 53% of U.S. adults age 55 and older use some type of assistive or health-related technology. Two of the most widely used technologies by respondents include medical or health-related mobile apps (25%) and wearable medical or health-related trackers (17%).
Service-related apps that help with things like grocery and food delivery are also popular, with 24% of respondents saying they use them. Instacart, one of the more prevalent grocery apps, reported a 9% increase in the number of seniors using Instacart between the first and fourth quarter of 2020 – the largest jump within any age group.
While the decision to adopt a medical alert system can be a difficult one for seniors, nearly all who use one (96%) say it brings them some relief or assurance, according to our Senior Safety and Connectedness Survey. That survey similarly found that 97% of users’ children say the medical device system their parents use brings them relief.
The recent pandemic brought more seniors online in an effort to stay connected with others and limit exposure to the virus. In fact, our Aging in Place With Assistive Tech Survey found that more than a third of respondents increased their use of assistive or health-related technologies due to COVID-19.
To tackle the learning curve of using their devices, respondents say they rely on product guides (30%), family and friends (22%), and health care workers (19%) to help them.
Many Respondents Say Using Assistive Technologies Improves Their Quality of Life
In our survey, 88% of respondents assert that assistive or health-related technologies have improved their quality of life. The technologies that have made it easiest for them to age in place are medical or health-related mobile apps (45%), service-related apps like grocery delivery apps (43%), wearable medical or health-related trackers (33%), and assistive smart home technologies (30%).
Using assistive or health-related technologies from home not only makes life for older Americans easier, but it also provides a sense of independence for more than half of survey respondents (55%). They also feel notably safer (44%) and healthier (33%) when using these technologies.
Although the majority of survey respondents (93%) say aging in place is an important goal for them, 59% feel their home is at least somewhat ready, and only 19% feel that their current home setup is completely prepared for the years ahead. Meanwhile, 41% feel their current setup is minimally ready to not ready at all because their home is lacking components such as no-step entry, a voice- or remote-controlled thermostat, virtual assistant devices, and/or height-adjustable products.
More than half (60%) of people age 65 and older lived with their spouse or partner in 2021, according to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. About 27% (15.2 million) of all older adults lived alone that same year, and a small number of people (1.2 million) age 65 and older lived in nursing homes in 2019.
Cost of Living and Privacy Concerns Could Affect Decisions Around Aging in Place
Aging in place doesn’t come without challenges. In our survey, 62% of respondents say cost-of-living increases are making it more difficult for them to age in place. According to the ACL, the median income of older people living in the United States was $26,668 ($35,808 for men and $21,245 for women) in 2020. Five million people age 65 and older in the U.S. lived below the poverty level, and another 2.6 million were “near-poor.”
Since the report from the Administration on Aging was filed in 2020, Americans have faced increasingly high prices on everyday goods and services as inflation soared to record highs in the U.S. The consumer price index, a key indicator of inflation, rose by 5% in March 2023 relative to 12 months prior, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Labor. The high prices of goods and services, coupled with the income limitations of people age 65 and older, create difficult decisions when it comes to aging in place.
Another area of concern for aging Americans is centered around privacy. Just over half of all respondents (53%) have privacy concerns over an increased dependence on assistive or health-related technologies. While these devices offer a variety of benefits, they also rely heavily on the collection of personal information, which presents potentially serious privacy and security risks.
As the U.S. population continues to age, it’s clear that older people generally have a strong desire to age in place, or live in their homes for as long as possible. As they experience the changes and challenges that come with aging, they are willing to adopt new assistive or health-related technologies, like medical alert systems and wearable health trackers, in an effort to extend their time in their homes and make it as safe and easy as possible.
Our 360 Reviews team used the third-party survey platform Pollfish to conduct a national survey of 2,000 U.S. adults who are 55-plus. People identifying as female comprised 57% of respondents, while those identifying as male represented the remaining 43%. Responses were then weighted in order to reflect the current U.S. population by achieving equal distribution with known population characteristics.
For More Information Contact:
Toll Free: 800-378-2957