Surprised to See Boomers on Skype? Don't Be

Older Generation Adapts to Technology That Connects Them With Loved Ones

By Published on .

Craig Daitch Craig Daitch also writes the blog Thought Industry.
At least once a week, my parents in Michigan get to see my daughter in New Jersey. No, I don't have a million frequent flyer miles. We use Skype. For those unaware of Skype, it is a VoIP service that allows users to make both telephone- and videophone-based calls over the internet.

I have to give credit to my parents: What started out as a relatively laborious process -- figuring out how to get their webcam to work properly 600 miles away -- has turned into an easy way for Grandma and Papa to keep tabs on their growing granddaughter.

Their willingness to adopt new technology isn't that surprising when you look at the research, however. According to a 2009 Pew internet study, boomers in 2008 look nothing like they did in 2000. More than half of all boomers are online on an average day, and more than a third go online several times a day. And 41% of boomers go online just to have fun. Imagine that!

Furthermore, according to a great article I found on Marketing Charts, an online report by the NPD Group showed that 61% of baby-boomer internet users in the U.S. have visited sites that offer streaming or downloadable video, and 41% have visited online social networks.

Another seismic shift in boomer behavior is their adoption of social networks. In fact, women over 55 are their fastest-growing demographic.

Surprised? Shocked? I'm actually neither, nor are the majority of my friends.

As David Armano put it so eloquently four months ago, our concepts of neighborhoods have changed. And with our perception of neighborhoods changing, Gen X and Y have begun to branch out more to digitally extend our lives from the real world to online. Family members who yearn to stay in touch will adapt. In the case of my parents, both of them use e-mail, instant messaging and mobile regularly to stay connected with my brothers, our wives and our children. No, they aren't on Facebook yet, but many of my cousins, both young and old, are. I suspect yours are too.

While the occasional family get-together is more difficult to attend than in years past, the economy has forced a change in consumer behavior that shouldn't be discredited. For us to stay on top of family information, we had to figure out a way to solve for our proximity issues. For my parents to stay involved in my daughter's life, they had to do the same.

We left Michigan three years ago with heavy hearts, afraid we'd lose the intimacy we had with our family, since moving meant being considered "out of the loop." The reality is that I probably learn more about my family's current events quicker than my brother who lives 10 miles away from my parents does.

Technology can be an intimidating subject for all ages, but when put in the context of connecting with loved ones, it's a bit easier to grasp. As a result, our generational gap is closing, and the stigma of an older age group's inability to use the internet as a communication channel is falling away.

In this article:
Most Popular