Texting for Older Adults
Texting for Seniors and Older Adults
Texting/SMS (Short Message Service) has grown in popularity as a communication method in both person-to-person and business-to-person interactions in the last 20 years. Many (incorrectly!) assume this mode of “talking” with a friend, relative, or business is for younger people only. In fact, texting is also a popular form of communication for the aging population as well. Think you don’t need to offer texting/SMS as a way for your clients to communicate with your Aging and Disability Resource Center, Area Agency on Aging, or other service for older adults? Think again!
Do Seniors Text? Yes!
Let’s look at this by the numbers…
- 97% of people aged 50-64, and 92% of people 65+ own a mobile phone
- According to Nielsen, people aged 45-64 are the fastest growing demographic of mobile users
- 60% of people over 45 say they are just as likely to text as they are to make a phone call
- 40% of those born before 1945 own a smartphone
- Of Baby Boomers who text, 57% would have a positive view of a company that offers texting, while 42% agree that it’s a convenient way to communicate with a business
- 61% of people aged 53-63 check their phone notifications 1-3 times per hour
Based on the data available from numerous studies, it’s clear that older adults own cell phones at high rates, and they don’t just use those phones for emergencies. With 83% of people aged 50-64, and 61% of people aged 65+ owning smartphones, not flip phones or call-only phones, it’s clear that they are doing far more than making phone calls. They send and receive texts, read the news, use social media, browse the internet, go shopping, stream music and video, and much more using their smartphones.
Older Adults Use Technology Like Never Before
Think about all the amazing technology available now that wasn’t around 20 or even 10 years ago. Seniors and older adults are:
- Accessing Patient Portals to manage their health
- Receiving text/SMS reminders of appointments
- Using social media to stay in touch with kids/grandkids and view photos of their growing families
- Receiving SMS/text notifications that medical test results are ready for viewing in a patient portal
- Attending workshops and falls prevention programs via Zoom and other virtual platforms during the COVID-19 pandemic
Comfortability with technology among only adults will only expand from this point on. We are already seeing millions of older adults staying in the workforce for longer periods, where they are increasingly exposed to and trained on technology in order to do their jobs. And as younger generations continue to age, they will bring their technology skills with them into their older adulthood and expect that these technologies be available to them when interacting with physicians, hospitals, businesses, community-based organizations, and agencies focused on serving older adults.
Many of our older adults’ caregivers are younger and even more adept at using texting/SMS and other technologies to explore and access services for their loved ones. Not only are they skilled at using these tools — they actually prefer texting or self-service tools whenever possible, as opposed to making a voice call. It’s important to meet these caregivers on the channels that work best for them. This not only ensures older adults are better connected with needed services, but it reduces stress and can make for a less overwhelming caregiving experience.
Texting/SMS Isn’t Going Anywhere
Texting has been around for longer than many of us realize. The very first text messages were sent back in 1992, and by 2007 the majority of mobile phones sold were equipped with texting/SMS available with familiar QWERTY style keyboards seen on computers, making texting easier to use and understand for all generations.
With texting/SMS popularity skyrocketing among all generations over the last 10-20 years, it’s clear that this mode of communication is not a fad — it’s here to stay. The time has come to adapt to and offer this form of communication as a way to access your organization and its services. Those who do not adopt this technology now may be leaving many older adults behind by not meeting them where they are on the channels they prefer.
iCarol Can Help!
Using iCarol, Aging and Disability Resource Centers, Area Agencies on Aging, and other services for older adults can:
- Engage in 2-way texting with their clients to provide emotional support and/or information and referral
- Send information and referral information by email or text message
- Allow for online screening for eligibility and intake to access services
- Offer conversations with clients and caregivers over Live Chat
- Invite clients and caregivers to browse resource databases and community service inventories online
- Conduct follow-up or surveys with clients by SMS/text
- Work more closely and share data with partners and community-based organizations (CBOs) to improve No Wrong Door/Any Door/Continuity of Care initiatives
Ready to Get Started?
SMS usage skyrocketing: Pew Research Study
Pew Research Center Mobile Fact Sheet
Millennials stand out for their technology use, but older generations also embrace digital life
10 reasons you should be texting with seniors
Nielsen – Smartphone Milestone: Half of Mobile Subscribers Age 55+ Own Smartphones
Study: SMS Becoming Prevalent Among Older Generations
Here’s How Each Generation Prefers to Text With Your Business
Baby Boomers Move Towards Texting – and Businesses Should Care
AARP: Technology Use and Attitudes Among Mid-life and Older Americans
AARP: Personal Tech and the Pandemic: Older Adults Are Upgrading for a Better Online Experience
AARP: Getting Connected – Older Americans Embrace Technology to Enhance Their Lives
AARP: Older Adults Keep Pace on Tech Usage
A Brief History of Text Messaging