Every generation sees the world through its own lens.
Youngsters who grew up during the Great Depression and World War II, for instance, frequently became frugal adults who instructed their own children in the value of saving for a rainy day.
Those children became Baby Boomers, who began reinventing society, thrived on television and movies, made university education a social and political event, organized anti-war protests, muddled through the ’60 and the disco era, and expanded suburban horizons.
Their offspring were known as Generation X, often characterized as the MTV Generation, who measured their lives with music, greatly valued education and work-life balance, and turned away from authoritarianism and many traditions of their parents that had been brought to America from other nations and a diversity of cultures.
Today’s Millennials, the younger siblings and children of GenXers, have grown up with mobile devices at their fingertips and online delivery at their command. They often measure people, businesses and institutions by the sophistication and convenience of their technology.
Each generation tends to look back at its predecessors with a cautious eye and sometimes skepticism or disdain, presuming that the lens of their parents and grandparents is out of focus in today’s world. What they forget, however, is that all these generations are connected by a straight line of technical innovation, historical events and cultural evolution that impacts them all.
As a Boomer, I’ve noticed a number of misperceptions about our on-the-edge-of-aging generation, not the least of which relates to technology adoption. Communicators should understand how seniors use technology before planning their marketing programs and targeting their media content. After all, the Boomers are just that—a far larger cohort of people than any subsequent generation, a group who now are becoming senior citizens.
If you think this older generation doesn’t understand today’s technology, Bing “Baby Boomers.” Boomers (and their parents) invented today’s technology market. It was the Boomer generation that popularized personal computers, the Internet, the Web, email, mobile phones, chat, online games, e-commerce and cable TV.
Moreover, seniors have kept up with the evolution of these tools. They use social media to find friends, create support networks and follow the news, just as Millennials do. In fact, Pew Research Center reported last year that seniors were the fastest-growing group of social media adopters, with 43 percent of Americans over 65 using at least one social networking site, compared with 26 percent in 2010 and 1 percent in 2008. About half of all seniors who go online use Facebook.
Seven in 10 seniors 65 and older own a mobile phone—and that proportion is growing rapidly. Even among those aged 76 and older, 56 percent reported owning a cell phone.
The figures demonstrate that, not only are seniors eager adopters of digital technology, but they are using it in increasing numbers. Marketers and other communicators who have been focusing their lenses intently on Millennials may want to adjust their field of view in light of the rising tide of Boomer seniors who are growing the tech marketplace that they launched 30 years ago.