Since first posting this article in 2010, when the majority of nonprofit professionals thought that social media was just for young people, Baby Boomers and seniors have increasingly adopted the use of new technologies. The past few years, I have endeavored to refresh this post with new information as it becomes available.
A May, 2017 report released by Pew Internet Research Project notes that older adults are steadily increasing their use of the Internet.
“Although seniors consistently have lower rates of technology adoption than the general public, this group is more digitally connected than ever. In fact, some groups of seniors – such as those who are younger, more affluent and more highly educated – report owning and using various technologies at rates similar to adults under the age of 65.”
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 we should be, too. Blackbaud produced a report that supports my assertion vis-a-vis philanthropy, “The Next Generation of American Giving” (2013).
“Boomers contribute 43% of all giving. Are you neglecting this lucrative generation in your efforts to woo hot-topic Millennials?”
Northern Trust Wealth posted an insightful infographic, “Entrepreneurs Targeting Baby Boomer Consumers” (June, 2015). “The 50+ population has $2.4 trillion in annual income, which accounts for 42% of all after-tax income in the U.S.” That is noteworthy also for nonprofits seeking charitable donations.
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. Jessica Naziri wrote for USA Today, “Senior Tech Helps Baby Boomers Come of Digital Age” (January 30, 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.”
In another one of my blog posts, “Americans and Their Gadgets,” I point out the need for “hands-on” classes to teach everyone how to use new technologies and social media. Let’s hope more philanthropists will see this need and fund it.
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 NTEN’s annual conference, the “NTC” at CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, I smile when I think about those who argued with me that there was a connection between older adults, major gifts and digital communications. Many thought I was off the mark, including the leadership of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. The organization downplayed social media use by nonprofits for several years until they could no longer afford to ignore it. Time has proven me right!
- Katie Moran has written a helpful report, “The Overlooked: Social Media Marketing for Senior Citizens” (2014), which one can access via Coming of Age (follow the link to an e-update on April 4, 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” (September 17, 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” (January 4, 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” (August 7, 2016).
- Eric Nagourney has written for The New York Times, “Why Am I a Challenge for Charities?” (January 12, 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 this blog post by Allyson Kapin of Care2/Frogloop, “Tips to Engage Baby Boomers and Seniors Through Social Media” (October 1, 2012). The article includes convincing statistics about why nonprofits should focus on Boomers and seniors, and you can listen to a pre-recorded webinar on the topic, too.
- I enjoyed Brian Proffitt’s article, “Why Boomers Won’t Release Their Grip on Technology,” posted October 18, 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.”
- ElderGadget is a blog by Elie Gindi that you might enjoy.
- AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) is also focusing some attention on new technologies that will help people as they age. You might also want to review the organization’s website for additional information (aarp.org).
- An article by Aidan Hijleh of Benchmark EMail appears in All Facebook, “How To Appeal to Facebook’s Fastest Growing Demographic: Seniors” (October 4, 2011). Aidan provides helpful insights and references the Pew report as well.
For more information please see my next blog page, “Baby Boomers and Seniors: More Information.”
Caroline James of ElderAction emailed me about her work, and I wanted to share the link. I understand they are preparing to provide more information online, so if you are interested in that topic, be watching!