America’s Senior Citizens and Screen Time

When I first started college, my major was Pre-Med with an emphasis on geriatrics. I already had my pharmacy tech credentials, and the place I worked at had multiple contracts to be the pharmacy of choice for nursing homes and some private clinics that were focused on people over 70. For two years, I was the person who went to these nursing homes and helped them manage their pharmaceutical needs.

I became very interested in the aging process and their healthcare. But even then, I observed closely how some of these older folks spent their time in these specialty care facilities. Many were bedridden and, besides visits from the family and short excursions to areas where they needed special physical therapy and exercise, most were confined to their rooms, and their best friend was their televisions.

Although I switched majors after two years of college, I never forget my work in geriatrics. Over the last 40 years, due to the family at times having to be confined to nursing homes or special care facilities, I continued to observe how an older generation spends their leisure time, and even now, the television still dominates their video viewing free time.

Recently, the Economist published a story that included a chart from Nielson that looked at how many hours are spent on media consumption across all adult age groups. The chart confirms that for those over 65, the television is still their major choice for media viewing. But the smartphone has also become a major medium for media consumption for this age group too.

Here is the Economist’s commentary on the Nielson chart”

“According to Nielsen, a market-research firm, Americans aged 65 and overspend nearly ten hours a day consuming media on their televisions, computers, and smartphones. That is 12% more than Americans aged 35 to 49, and a third more than those aged 18 to 34 (the youngest cohort for whom Nielsen has data).

Most of that gap can be explained by the TV. American seniors—three-quarters of whom are retired—spend an average of seven hours and 30 minutes in front of the box, about as much as they did in 2015 (this includes time spent engaged in other activities while the television is blaring in the background). They spend another two hours staring at their smartphones, a more than seven-fold increase from four years ago (see chart).”

We have friends in there 70’s and 80’s who are still very active and their smartphones have become very important to them. Besides their smartphones being a safety net that allows them to reach family and emergency services if needed, they also use their smartphones for video, to play games and in some cases, to learn and keep their minds sharp.

In fact, Seniors playing games is on the rise.


They also combat aging with video games.

The Internet itself has become a major tool for Seniors-

Axess lab did a study on facts about the elderly and the Web and found the following:

  • Those of the baby boomer generation spend around 27 hours weekly online.
  • Of the group aged over 65, seven out of ten will go online daily.
  • 82% of those in both groups run searches online related to what they’re interested in.
  • 78% of seniors say that they like going online because it enables them to find the information that they need easily.

  • 60% of them believe that you can stay up to date when it comes to policy and political issues by surfing the web.
  • For around about a third of seniors, the Internet is considered a trustworthy source of information and news.
  • 20% of seniors communicate with their friends via email.
  • 75% of the elderly go online to communicate with their family and friends.
  • More than half of those who are classified as seniors follow an organization on social media.
  • 40% of seniors who watch videos online do so in order to keep up to date with breaking news.
  • 53% of the elderly research medical or healthcare issues online.

    54% of seniors watch videos online for purely entertainment purposes.

  • Half of the seniors say that it’s very important to play games in order to remain sharp. A further 26% state that playing games are extremely important for this reason.

The Internet, as a medium for information and entertainment for our aging population, is an important market and one that continues to grow.

AARP published a chart from the US Census Bureau that projects that Older Adults will outnumber children by 2035.

Marketers take note. These types of stats continue to show that a senior market will become even bigger over time, and tech marketers cannot ignore them when designing hardware, software, and services in the future.

And while the TV dominates their media consumption, a computer and smartphone have become critical tools for them too, and they appear to be increasing their usage and making them much more important to their aging lifestyles.

Published by

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.

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