Embracing Technology: Surging Smartphone Adoption Among the Elderly

Care Coordination

June 20, 2024
An African-American woman excitedly shows off her band-aid from where she got vaccinated earlier. A group of doctors with one in focus and smiling. A group of seniors waiting in a clinic on their phones.

In recent years, the adoption of smartphones among the elderly has seen a remarkable surge, marking a significant shift in how older adults interact with technology.

Once considered reluctant users, many seniors now find smartphones to be indispensable tools that enhance their daily lives in numerous ways.

This trend is driven by advancements in technology, the growing availability of senior-friendly devices, and a heightened awareness of the benefits that smartphones can offer.

The Rise in Smartphone Adoption

Statistics reveal a substantial increase in smartphone ownership among older adults. According to a 2024 Pew Research Center analysis, 76% of those 65+  now own a smartphone reflecting a significant shift in the way seniors engage with digital technology. This was influenced by the pandemic when seniors had to embrace digital technology to safely interact with others. It has highlighted the potential for technology to support older adults in healthy living.

Factors Contributing to Increased Adoption

Several key factors contribute to the growing adoption of smartphones among the elderly:

  1. Health and Safety Benefits:
  • Telemedicine: The COVID-19 pandemic significantly accelerated the adoption of telehealth services, making smartphones a vital link between seniors and healthcare providers. Telemedicine apps allow older adults to consult with doctors and monitor chronic conditions from the comfort of their homes. It also showed seniors the convenience that is possible without requiring family members to take off time from work to physically take them to appointments to discuss, for example, testing results.
  • Health Monitoring: Smartphones equipped with health-tracking apps can monitor heart rates, physical activity, and other vital signs. Seniors can share this data with healthcare providers, aiding in the management of health conditions. Conversational chatbots can check in on the patient to provide targeted education and guidance on addressing symptoms, preventing falls, and more.
  • Proactive guidance and education:  As value-based care expands, organizations are starting to reach out to patients to remind them, for example, of free vaccine clinics tripling participation and proving the value of reaching out to seniors. Care coordination resources are helpful and cost-effective guiding seniors to manage multiple, complex conditions.
  • Emergency Services: Features like emergency SOS and fall detection provide peace of mind to both seniors and their families, ensuring help is readily available in case of emergencies.
  1. Enhanced Social Connectivity:
  • Video Calls and Social Media: Platforms like Zoom, Skype, Facebook, and WhatsApp enable seniors to maintain regular contact with family and friends, reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness. Video calling has become a popular way for grandparents to stay connected with grandchildren. Video calls can also be a convenient way to address medical questions to determine how to respond to new symptoms and avoid trips to the Emergency Department or hospital.
  • Community Engagement: Social media and community forums offer spaces for seniors to engage with others who share similar interests, participate in local events, become aware of local services, and join support groups.
  1. User-Friendly Innovations:
  • Accessibility Features: Smartphone manufacturers have made significant strides in developing devices that cater to the needs of older adults. Features like larger text, simplified interfaces, voice commands, and hearing aid compatibility make smartphones more accessible.
  • Educational Resources: Many seniors are now more tech-savvy due to educational initiatives that teach them how to use smartphones effectively. Workshops, online tutorials, and one-on-one training sessions help bridge the digital literacy gap.
  1. Entertainment and Learning:
  • Media Consumption: Smartphones provide access to a vast array of entertainment options, including streaming services, audio and e-books, and online games, offering seniors new ways to enjoy their leisure time.
  • Lifelong Learning: Educational apps and online courses enable older adults to pursue new interests and hobbies, fostering continuous learning and cognitive engagement.

Overcoming Barriers

While the benefits are clear, barriers to smartphone adoption among the elderly remain. These include:

  • Health professionals dated beliefs and practices: Ageism in healthcare can lead to dangerous generalizations which have the effect of withholding needed digital tools from elderly patients. Clinicians may be reluctant or unprepared to offer digital options thinking the elderly are unwilling or unable to use new technology. We have seen this objection raised often to QliqSOFT. Individuals are often surprised to learn about high elderly smartphone adoption rates and successful initiatives targeted to the elderly.  
  • Broadband access and cell coverage:  Past infrastructure programs have brought electricity and roads to rural areas. The modern equivalent today is laying fiber optic cable in remote areas. The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, created under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in November of 2021, provides grants to states for broadband expansion to provide accessible, high-speed Internet, especially to rural communities where the population density makes fiber optic expansion too expensive for for-profit companies to fund.
  • Fear of Technology: Some seniors may initially feel intimidated by new technology. Overcoming this fear often requires patience, encouragement, and support from family members or community programs that offer to help seniors learn or troubleshoot issues they may be experiencing.
  • Cost Concerns: The price of smartphones and data plans can be prohibitive for some older adults. However, budget-friendly options, resale markets selling used devices, and subsidized programs are becoming more available. Increasingly, insurance companies are providing or subsidizing smartphones or tablets for individuals with high-cost, complex conditions.
  • Privacy and Security: Concerns about privacy and the security of personal information can deter seniors from fully embracing smartphones. Education about safe internet practices and robust security features can help alleviate these worries.

The Future of Smartphone Use Among Seniors

As technology continues to evolve, so will how seniors interact with it. Digital savvy consumers will age, continuing to reduce barriers to use. Future developments may include even more intuitive interfaces, personalized health monitoring tools, and enhanced virtual reality experiences for social and recreational purposes.  

Policymakers and technology companies must prioritize the needs of older adults, ensuring that advancements in technology remain inclusive and accessible. By doing so, they can help seniors maintain their independence, stay connected with loved ones, and enjoy a higher quality of life.


The growing adoption of smartphones among the elderly is a testament to the versatility and accessibility of modern technology. As seniors increasingly integrate these devices into their daily lives, they are discovering new ways to stay connected, manage their health, and engage with the world around them. With continued support and innovation, the potential for smartphones to enhance the lives of older adults is boundless, promising a future where technology serves as a bridge to a more connected and fulfilling life for seniors everywhere.

The Author
Bobbi Weber

Bobbi is a lifelong learner who is passionate about enabling healthcare transformation. She has 20+ years of healthcare experience in care delivery, consulting, healthcare IT, and market strategy.

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