Written by Le Thy Nguyen, Collaborator in the economy, finance and science section, Embassy of Switzerland in Paris
It was a quiet Saturday evening in Grenoble and I was sitting in the living room next to my grandmother. I noticed she was moving her finger up and down on the screen of her tablet. “So, what are you doing?” I asked. And she answered: “I am on Facebook!”
All sorts of thoughts started whirling in my mind: “It’s good! She uses the gift we gave her for her 85th birthday… but wait… she actually knows how to use it? And she has Facebook?! Did I accept her friendship request???…. oh no, I think I did…”
And I started to wonder: do others have grandparents with a Facebook account?
I did a quick online search and I found a poll by Cogedim Club, which says that more than two seniors out of three in France own at least one connected device (computer, smartphone or tablet). The study called “Barometer 55+” was published in March 2016 and announced that the so called “digital generation gap” is slowly disappearing. This means that the use of Internet is spreading among all generations including the ones who haven’t known it during their professional life.
I also read that by 2030, one person out of two will be 50 or older. This might explain why one of the most talked-about trends right now is the growth and increasing online spending of the “senior Internet users” demographic.
So let’s take a look at why the stereotype of the “not-so-tech grand-parent” has run its course.
The study conducted by Cogedim Club, which focuses on seniors and how they embrace the digital world, says that 63% of people aged 55 or older use Internet with more than one senior out of four in the group 75+. The phenomenon became so important (not only in France but also in other western countries) that this group of Internet users has been labeled as: the silver surfers.
How do they engage with the internet? According to Cogedim Club, the French silver surfers use Internet mainly for three kinds of activities: to communicate with friends and family, to stay informed and read the news and to get information about a product or a service. It is also important to note that about one out of three silver surfer plays games online or via an app.
What I found the most surprising is that almost one third of the “connected seniors” use Facebook or another social media, mainly to stay in touch with their children or grandchildren. In fact, a research lead by CREDOC showed that, in 2014, one person out of four aged between 60 and 69 was a member of a social media. So it seems that social media isn’t just for teens and young socialites anymore and an increasing number of seniors are now present and active online.
The online world is changing. Silver surfers are getting more involved and some innovative French enterprises are taking full advantage of this trend. Here are a few examples:
Social media for seniors:
Quintonic.fr is a social media dedicated to people aged 50 and plus. This website helps seniors from the same region to connect, meet and organize activities together. The main purpose of Quintonic.fr is to allow its members to have an active social life by exchanging and meeting people with the same centers of interest. The Quintonic community is organized by regional groups, each animated by a regional ambassador (a volunteer). More than 300 000 people have already joined this social media.
From our smart devices we are able to access news, entertainment, as well as engage in all sorts of e-services. However, if an elderly suffers from a disability (dyslexia, Parkinson, cataract), web pages are rarely accessible. Facil’iTi improves the browsing of a website to meet the needs of an individual’s particular condition.
Tablets for elderly:
How do you encourage older people to use a tablet? That’s the challenge Tikeasy wants to tackle with its solution called Tooti Family. This software, installed on a low-cost tablet, allows seniors to easily surf online and connect with their family. The company worked with ergonomists to design a product specifically adapted to the elderly: the home page and all the apps are simplified, the texts are displayed in a bigger font and family members can take control of the tablet at a distance.
Think the older generation is not engaged in the digital world? Think again, at least as far as France is concerned.