Pew Research noted in, “Americans 60 and older are spending more time in front of their screens than a decade ago,” (2019):
“Those 60 and older – a group increasingly populated by aging Baby Boomers – now spend more than half of their daily leisure time, four hours and 16 minutes, in front of screens, mostly watching TV or videos. Screen time has increased for those in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond, and the rise is apparent across genders and education levels. Meanwhile, the time that these older adults spend on other recreational activities, such as reading or socializing, has ticked down slightly.”
Irfan Jafrey of the Forbes Technology Council has also noted:
“A common misconception among marketers is that baby boomers aren’t online. This, however, is far from the truth. More and more of them are discovering social media and its many benefits. As a matter of fact, according to a study by Google, boomers and seniors spend more time online than they do watching TV. 82% of boomers who use the internet have at least one social media account, and they have an average of 4.6 social media accounts, with Facebook and LinkedIn as the leading platforms.”
Back when I first started studying this trend from about 2008 to 2010, the majority of my nonprofit professional colleagues thought social media was only for young people. Many of them were adamant that older adults would certainly not be interested in the Internet! But older adults have increasingly adopted the use of new technologies. And those with more education (and those in higher income brackets), are more “online” than those with little or no education. How could this affect nonprofit organizations?
Many of our donors and prospective donors (major and planned gift), are increasingly using the Internet, which means nonprofits should be, too. Blackbaud produces a report that supports my assertion vis-a-vis philanthropy, “The Next Generation of American Giving.” “Baby Boomers remain the most generous generation, and the number of Boomers saying they give is increasing.” Smart nonprofits should make sure they have a solid, consistent presence online.
Entrepreneurs who predicted the Boomer+ age group trend toward being more active online, are now actively developing “gadgets” for older adults to support all aspects of their lives. They are smart to do so! Jessica Naziri wrote for USA Today, “Senior Tech Helps Baby Boomers Come of Digital Age” (2015).
“While younger people are typically the ‘experts’ of high-tech gadgets and gizmos, compared to their older compatriots who as a group continue to lag behind in adopting new technology, an increasing number of elders … are interested and involved in using technologies that allow them to stay more connected socially, with family and friends.”
A few years ago, Jamie Carracher, formerly of Edelman Digital, wrote an article noting key precautions and takeaways concerning older adults that I wanted to share.
- A growing number of older adults are taking advantage of the web right now. Don’t ignore them.
- As our society and the web mature, we need to make sure we are building it to empower everyone, not just the young and tech-savvy.
- New technologies and web services will need to be intuitive and easy to use but not insulting.
- Accessibility has to be built into the planning processes for new projects from the beginning, including consideration of design, text size and physical usability.
- Once new products and services are ready for public consumption, education is key to make sure seniors don’t fall behind and become victims of a “digital divide.”
For those of us involved in the philanthropic sector, why should we care?
People in the “Boomer” age group are entering a time of life when many commonly consider making significant charitable donations. Boomers are also more charitably inclined than some other age groups. And, because more than 80% of all charitable donations are made by individuals, those of us involved in nonprofit fundraising need to keep this in mind and plan accordingly.
Looking back to 2010 when I gave a presentation at the annual conference hosted by NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network called the “NTC,” that year held at CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, I smile when I think about those who scoffed when I suggested there was a connection between older adults, major gifts and digital communications. I have to hand it to a representative of Girl Scouts who felt I was, “right on,” and to Margaret Battistelli, who wrote about my discussion in, “Major Gift Fundraising and Social Media.”
It is noteworthy that while most of my conference attendees were skeptical, the topic was clearly of interest. NTEN had given me a “sunrise” session in a room that held 50. I had a line of people wanting to get in to hear the presentation out the door and down the hall, and my slide deck remained in the top ten on the conference SlideShare page for well over a year! SlideShare emailed to report that my slide deck that morning was being downloaded faster and more often than any other on their platform. I have since closed my SlideShare account and moved my presentation over to ISSUU. I think I could give that same presentation today, and many would still find the information “new.”
The message today then – some ten years later – is that Baby Boomers and older generations are on social media. Nonprofits need to recognize this, and the fact that America (and the world) is “graying.” Taking the time to understand how to communicate with and harness the attention of older adults makes perfect sense.
- USA Facts is a terrific resource for statistical information. I wanted to share, “America is getting older. Which states have the largest elderly populations?” (August 22, 2022). I am posting this at the top of the list out of alpha order because of its timeliness. Ditto, this article by Mark Hall of Forbes, “The Greatest Wealth Transfer In History: What’s Happening And What Are The Implications” (2019).
- Lois A. Bowers wrote for McKnight’s Senior Living, “Social media use has physical, mental health benefits for seniors” (2016).
- Jeff Brooks wrote for Future Fundraising Now, “Boomer Life Transitions and Fundraising” (2013). “Boomers are quickly replacing their elders as the fundraising target audience. For every older donor who “permanently lapses” (if you catch my drift), more than one Boomer turns 50, 55, 60, 65 — the ages where people ripen into true donors, the gold-standard supporters who make nonprofit work possible.”
- Katie Moran provides a helpful report, “The Overlooked: Social Media Marketing for Senior Citizens” (2014).
- Makayla Goings, a student of Accredited Online Courses, approached me about sharing her infographic, “Silver Surfers: Internet Usage Among Older Adults” (2014). “The Internet isn’t just for tweens and young socialites. In fact, a large population of Internet users are 50 and older, utilizing the Web for social media, shopping and even education. Let’s take a look at why the stereotype of the not-so-tech-savvy Baby Boomer is more than faulty.” Well said, Makayla!
- Bloomberg posted a helpful infographic, “Preparing For the Mature Consumer Boom” (2013), which includes information helpful to both companies and nonprofit organizations. “Today’s senior consumers carry plenty of buying clout and companies ignore them at their peril. Eight-thousand baby boomers turn 65 each day and by 2050, there will be 161 million 50-plus consumers, a 63 percent increase since 2010.”
- Yaara Lancet of MakeUseOf posted, “Tech Through 90-Year-Old-Eyes” (2013). “Getting a glimpse into the way older people view technology is definitely thought-provoking. There’s a common conception that 90-year-olds, and even 60 and 70-year-olds can’t use technology properly. This is obviously wrong, the subject vastly misunderstood.”
- David C. Morris wrote for Forbes, “Survey: Older Workers Are Actually More Comfortable With Technology” (2016).
- Eric Nagourney has written for The New York Times, “Why Am I a Challenge for Charities?” (2013). “Researchers have estimated that the baby boomer generation gives more money to charity than any other generation, about $47 billion a year.”
- I enjoyed Brian Proffitt’s article, “Why Boomers Won’t Release Their Grip on Technology,” posted in 2012 on ReadWriteWeb. “Put away the cozy image of the little old lady knitting a sweater for the grandkids, or the distinguished gentlemen playing chess in the park, because the newest elder generation is not going to sit quietly in a rocking chair.”
- Tom Sheve for How Stuff Works, “10 Modern Technologies Baby Boomers are Using” (n.d.).
- ElderGadget is a blog and website you might enjoy. Smart tech companies will want to develop new technologies designed for Baby Boomers and seniors. Be watching.