The verdict’s out: older New Zealanders rival youngsters when it comes to modern day tech smarts

Over 1500 older adults were asked what they think about technology. The results suggest older Kiwis are no different from the rest of us when it comes to an obsession with tech.

160201_SurveystoryRun a Google image search of ‘older people technology’ and the results are riddled with a recurring theme – grey hair, confused expressions and short sentences brutally encapsulating why, apparently, old people and technology don’t mix.

There’s no mystery around what the ‘internet’ thinks about older adults and technology, but what’s the situation really like? Spark joined with social website Grownups to find out. Unsurprisingly, they discovered the memes are wildly off the mark.

Over 1500 Kiwis aged 55+, from throughout New Zealand were asked questions about the digital devices they use, how they use them, and their attitudes toward new technology.

More than 70% said they feel confident or very confident using technology, compared with only 2% who said they lack confidence. For a generation who grew up without the internet, there’s also a high usage rate with 90% saying they go online several times a day.

Spark’s CEO of Home Mobile and Business, Jason Paris, said the results aren’t surprising: “Customers of all ages tell us that they love what technology does for them – and actually, as we grow older, there are many ways technology becomes even more essential in our lives. You only have to look at the incredible developments in the healthcare and transport industries to see that.”

Mr Paris said the idea of technology being difficult to use because of a person’s age is an archaic way of thinking:

“The crucial thing when it comes to learning how to use today’s technology is curiosity and a willingness to try things out, because the aim for developers in creating technology is to make it intuitive and easy to use. We see that curiosity in many older customers, as well as in young people. Well-designed technology with the potential to really enhance lives is the kind anyone with a curious mind can pick up and use.”

“The majority of survey respondents were 55 and above – a generation that has lived through an age of reinvention, and is known for redefining social values. We’re now seeing them completely redefine what it means to grow old,” says Paris.

Technology, it seems, is helping them do that. Based on the survey results, more than 90% are using the internet to find information – learning new things on new devices and totally disproving the out-dated adage, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”

Many are also using the internet to keep in touch (84%) and to socialise (67%), with Facebook overwhelmingly the most popular social platform. And they’re not just doing all this on a desktop computer, half are doing it on a smart phone or tablet.

So if the memes are all wrong and the adages aren’t holding up, what do older adults picture when they think about themselves and technology? Here’s what they had to say:

160201_Surveystory2From a 65–69 year old: “I have instant access to the answers to questions via Google. I was able to repair my “unrepairable” camera, I was able to fix a problem with my car’s computer…I was lost in an industrial area of Dublin and, using Google maps, was able to discover where I was and how to navigate to Belfast.”

A 70-79 year old said that with technology it’s “much easier to be in contact virtually anywhere, to access the Internet on the move, to stream music and use Google maps to be directed to places. My PS3 enables me to stream music and movies via Spotify and Netflix. I also use a Kobo reader to which I download books.”

The results paint a picture of active, ingenious, sharp-minded individuals who aren’t slowing down but, rather, are just getting started – and they’re doing it with technology.

Check out the Age Hackers to read more about the amazing things older Kiwis are doing with technology.