August 18, 2020
Baby boomers, by conventional wisdom, are not entirely nondigital — they were, after all, the pioneers of adopting home computers — but at this point in their lives, they’re a bit more reluctant about adopting newer technologies.
That’s the genesis of a new eMarketer report that found increased use of voice assistants and smart-home devices has largely skipped consumers born between 1946 and 1964.
The report’s author, Mark Dolliver, writes that along with concerns about privacy, lagging tech adoption among boomers relates to ongoing indifference regarding adoption of new things.
eMarketer cited a surge in voice-activated technology, which Dolliver said ought to have appeal for older boomers, whose ability to read a small screen and manipulate a tiny virtual keyboard may be declining. Yet boomers who own smartphones have lagged in using the voice assistant functions on devices.
“We estimate that 38.6% of smartphone boomers will use the voice assistant this year, vs. 49.0% of Gen Xers and 53.1% of millennials,” Dolliver wrote.
The report also claims boomers have scant adoption of smart-home technology, such as monitoring devices, Internet-connected home thermostats and smart appliances. According to a September 2019 AARP survey, penetration of such devices was lowest among the oldest boomers (who might benefit from them most) — falling from 11% among 50- to 59-year-olds, to 10% among 60- to 69-year-olds and to 7% among those ages 70 and older. Boomers also lag in adopting smart speakers, which bump up against their chronic worry about digital privacy.
“We expect just 17.6% of boomers to own smart speakers this year, barely half the device’s penetration among Gen Xers,” Dolliver wrote.
When boomers and seniors do try a new technology and find practical benefit in it, they’re like to stick with it, according to Dr. Alison Bryant, SVP of research at AARP.
“They may not literally be the first kid on the block to adopt it,” Bryant said. “But once they do, they will use it if it’s of value to them. And they have the discretionary income to actually purchase it.”