By Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D.
Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting
Recent research reveals that assumptions about the use of technology may be surprising: there’s a significant rise in Internet use (from 53% to 59% since 2012) – not by high-schoolers – but by people over 65! “Many seniors face hurdles to adopting new technologies, but once they join the online world, digital technology often becomes an integral part of their daily lives.”
Which seniors use technology?
- 3/4 adults over 65 own a cell phone (vs. 90% of adults), an increase from 69% to 77% since 2012.
- Only 18% had smartphones; most rarely use them for texting or apps, but rather, for the convenience of having a phone handy.
- 3 of 5 have Internet access (compared to 90% of adults)
- However, only 27% of seniors use social networking sites, so don’t expect to see grandpa on Facebook (46% of seniors vs. the national average of 73%) or Twitter (only 6% of seniors) any time soon.
- There is a significant drop in technology use after age 75.
Technically, Not All Seniors Were Created Equal
Unsurprisingly, older adults tend to be suspicious of the Internet and the risk of losing privacy, face physical challenges dealing with it, and find learning new technology difficult. Faced with change, they don’t readily see the need or usefulness of it. However, once taught, many embrace it, but have to get there first. Many of those who do use the Internet go online daily. Seniors who use social networking sites also claim to socialize more than those who do not. Older women outnumber older men using social networking (52% v. 39%).
YOUNGER (mid-late 60s)
AFFLUENT (Annual household income ≥ $75,000)
HIGHLY EDUCATED (≥ College degree)
OLDER (≥ 75)
LESS AFFLUENT (<$30,000)
LESS EDUCATED (No college)
SERIOUS HEALTH OR DISABILITY ISSUES
Quite connected to the digital world
Own multiple devices
Hardly use technology
Integrated the Internet to daily lives
Not comfortable learning how to use technology on their own
Have positive attitudes toward online life
Don’t feel like they are missing out on too much
Who takes “selfies”?’
In the age of documented narcissism and individuals starring in their own imaginary reality shows, those who take selfies are more likely:
- Women than men
- Young (averaging under 26 years old)
- Men who take selfies tend to be older than women
- Men are more likely to post them on Instagram than women
- Women’s poses are more expressive than men’s (e.g., 50% higher rate of head tilt)
(For more data on selfies, see SelfieCity’s interesting analysis.)
New approaches to older jurors
When digital technology was in its pioneering stage, many assumed that it excluded older adults. Nowadays, however, more people age 65 and older are joining the ranks of users, so it behooves you to explore them differently and, as usual, make no assumptions. In voir dire, knowing that older users tend to have other traits relating to education and household income, knowing their Internet use can be a window into other, relevant information about them. In addition, if you check the Internet during voir dire, including social networking sites, don’t forget to see if older adults are active. You may be surprised. 
What to ask in voir dire?
Instead of skipping over seniors, include them in the inquiry:
- How often do you go online, if at all?
- What do you usually use the Internet for, if anything?
- Do you use any social networking sites such as Facebook?
- If so, which ones?
- What type of cell phone do you use, if any?
- What types of things do you use your cell phone for, if anything?
- What are your feelings about new technology?
Remember, “None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm” (Henry David Thoreau) ... or technology.
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 Smith, Aaron. Older Adults and Technology Use 4/3/14 at http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/
 Op Cit. Smith, Aaron. 4/3/14.
 Selfies for Oldsters: It’s Time to Represent. 3/4/2014 at http://seniorplanet.org/selfies-for-oldsters-its-time-to-represent/