From silver surfers to social seniors - half of older people now have a smartphone and are on social media

Planners of forthcoming public sector campaigns might take note of the findings of a new Ofcom report, which details the rise of the 'social senior'.

Older people are increasingly adopting tablets and social media accounts, according to Ofcom (©irman/Thinkstock)
Older people are increasingly adopting tablets and social media accounts, according to Ofcom (©irman/Thinkstock)

Silver surfers have evolved into social seniors, with a surge in older people embracing the digital age, according to the report.

New research by Britain’s communications regulator reveals how older people are using smartphones and tablets in record numbers, driven by factors such as keeping touch with family and friends.

There has been a steep rise in the proportion of over-75s using tablets, from 15 per cent in 2015 to 27 per cent in 2016, and the number of people in this age group with smartphones has tripled, from five to 15 per cent, during this time.

And 51 per cent of those aged 65-74 now have tablets, compared to 39 per cent in 2015, with smartphone use having doubled among this age range in recent years - from 20 per cent in 2013 to 39 per cent last year.

A growing proportion of both of these age groups are also using smart TVs and streaming media players.

The findings, from Ofcom’s annual Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes report, released this month, also reveal that almost half (48 per cent) of internet users aged 65-74 now have a social media profile – up from less than a third (28 per cent) in 2012.

During this time, the proportion of over-75s on social media has more than doubled – from 19 to 41 per cent.

Almost half (48 per cent) of 65-74-year-olds now have social media accounts - up from less than a third in 2012.

Ofcom’s annual Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes report

Facebook is the most popular social network for senior citizens, cited by 87 per cent of pensioners who are on social media.

In contrast, just six per cent choose to be on WhatsApp and only one per cent opt for Instagram.

Almost half (48 per cent) of 65 to 74-year-olds now have social media accounts - up from less than a third (28 per cent) in 2012. During this time, the proportion of over-75s with social media accounts has rocketed from 13 to 41 per cent.

Yet, while a record number of pensioners are going digital, they spend less time online than the younger generation.

Over-65s spend 15 hours online each week, compared to 32 hours among 16-24s.

But some older internet users lack confidence when using the internet, with one in five describing themselves as "not confident" online - far higher than the seven per cent average.

Commenting on the report, Alison Preston, head of media literacy at Ofcom, said: "The UK’s older generation is beginning to embrace smart technology, and using it to keep in touch with friends and family. But some older people lack confidence online, or struggle to navigate search results. Many are new to the internet, so we’d encourage people to help older friends or family who need support getting connected."


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