The coronavirus pandemic has been disrupting personal lifestyles since mid-March while transforming the ways people work and interact. Social distancing and sheltering-in-place have lessened face-to-face contact between families, friends, co-workers, and classmates. Fortunately, online technology permits many of us to remain connected with the people in our world.
In addition to being especially vulnerable to COVID-19’s medical impacts, older adults are highly susceptible to the isolation its precautions cause. As a result, despite their generation’s tech-averse reputation, older adults are now embracing being online as never before. Indeed, 61 percent of seniors responding to a recent HealthInsurance.com survey indicated they had increased their use of technology since the pandemic began.
The online poll surveyed more than 1,000 Medicare-eligible Americans age 65 and older. From chatting with loved ones to managing their healthcare, older adults are using technology in more ways—and, as it turns out, enjoying the experience.
Staying in Touch
Seniors are mostly staying at home during the coronavirus. According to the HealthInsurance.com survey, 64 percent of seniors only leave their homes to shop at grocery stores or pharmacies. Moreover, they are not receiving visitors: 38 percent of older adults have gone without seeing their children or grandchildren in person since pandemic-related closedowns began in March.
Seniors are turning to video chat apps to keep in touch with both family and friends. Most say they are chatting online with their kids and grandkids at least once a month. Half agree that they are video chatting more since COVID-19 started, and a third admit to communicating online with their senior-age friends.
Ninety percent of seniors have smartphones and enjoy using them, and one in 10 cites the pandemic as the reason they began using a smartphone. More than two-thirds now describe texting or talking on a cellphone as their preferred communication method.
Telemedicine allows physicians to consult with—and care for—patients remotely using video-conferencing apps. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, only 10 percent of Medicare-eligible seniors had used telemedicine. Now, more than 40 percent of older adults have tried it and plan to continue using it.
Older adults are increasingly going online to investigate and access Medicare services. While more than half of Medicare beneficiaries still enroll in person or over the phone, 80 percent conduct their research on the internet.
Although grocery and drug stores remain in-person destinations for even the most cautious seniors, technology is helping to change that. More than a third of seniors now order their prescription medicines from online pharmacies.
Newsfeeds and Streaming
Stuck at home for the foreseeable future, many older adults are using technology for entertainment. Seventy-three percent of seniors use social media to get news and connect with family and friends. (Facebook is the most popular platform for older adults.) And while two-thirds of seniors still have cable television service, 75 percent watch a smart TV or streaming device.
Once thought to be unsavvy when it came to technology, older adults increasingly embrace it as they adapt to changes bought on by the pandemic. Can technology keep up with this responsive age group?