Why do Seniors Struggle With Technology?

Updated: Jul 6


As we age it is only inevitable that our health will deteriorate. We expect retirement to be a time in our lives in which we can finally relax and enjoy the time we have left in our lives; however, there are always challenges that can impair our ability to live comfortably. Various diseases and impairments like dementia, arthritis, and obesity affect seniors’ daily lives and oftentimes affect the efficiency with which seniors can use technology. Furthermore, 41% of older adults aged 65 – 79 have some level of limited functionality in areas of household activity, mobility, or self-care. As these adults reach the age of 80 and over, this share increases to nearly 71%. Household activity, such as being able to handle a phone, is the highest area of limited functionality with a total of 15.3 million households aged 65 and older as compared to a total of 9.6 million and 7 million with limitations in mobility and self-care respectively (1). Without having someone or easily accessible resources to aid in the use of technology, it can become very difficult to be able to properly utilize what technology has to offer. Health aside, understanding how technology works is another limiting factor that prevents seniors from being able to participate in using technology. As many as 77% of seniors report that they would need assistance if they were to try and learn how to use a phone or a tablet (2). However, this kind of easily accessible and understandable assistance is not always readily available for seniors who need it. In addition, it is important to consider that the technology we use daily is something that has only become widespread within the last twenty years. Only 18% of households in 1997 used the internet, but with recent advancements in technology in the last twenty years, this percentage has risen to 73% (3). Within the course of their lifetime, seniors have seen computers shrink to fit the palms of normal, everyday people – something that was completely unimaginable before. This gap between seniors and the rapid development of technology is massive and only continues to increase every day. As a result, mastering these new technologies oftentimes proves difficult because seniors generally do not have much experience using modern technology. They have less to refer to when trying to figure out the various new aspects of technology, and consequently, may feel that it is overwhelming and struggle more with using technology.

Combined with the reality of worsening health conditions and the fact that technology has tremendously improved primarily during the latter half of seniors’ lives, seniors oftentimes struggle with being able to use technology. It is imperative for those who have seniors in their lives to guide them through the intricacies of technology carefully and slowly. Telling our seniors about the benefits of technology as well as providing easily accessible and understandable services for technological help will soothe the process of learning for them.


(1) Harvard JCHS Housing Growing Population 2016.

https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/harvard_jchs_housing_growing_population_2016.pdf.

(2) “Why Do Many Seniors Have Trouble Using Technology?” No Isolation.

https://www.noisolation.com/research/why-do-many-seniors-have-trouble-using-technology.

(3) Ryan, Camille. Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2016 - Census.gov. Aug.

2018. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/acs/ACS-39.pdf.

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