Cell Phones for Seniors Statistics


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Cell Phones For Seniors Statistics

Technology is deeply incorporated into the lives of Americans of all ages. Among smartphone owners ages 50 and older, 98% report that they use their smartphone every day, according to a recent survey by AARP.

Older adults are also changing the way that they use smartphones as well, and they’re starting to fall in line with how younger users use their devices. These statistics indicate a cultural shift in the attitude of older Americans toward mobile technology. However, the majority of older Americans believe that there is room for improvement and that tech creators should work to create more user-friendly devices, especially for older individuals.

Key Takeaways:

  • The percentage of smartphone ownership among seniors ages 65 and over more than quadrupled between 2012 and 2021, according to the latest available data.
  • The majority of older and senior Americans are now smartphone owners. A Pew Research Center survey found that 83% of respondents between the ages of 50 and 64 and 61% of respondents ages 65 and over reported owning a smartphone.
  • Smartphone ownership and income are highly correlated for seniors. Among Americans ages 65 and older who have an annual household income of $75,000 or more, 81% own smartphones. Within that same age group, only 27% of those who earn less than $30,000 annually own smartphones.
  • Social usage, including social media and instant messaging, makes up about 45% of smartphone activity for those over 60 years of age.

Senior Cellphone Statistics

Older Americans have rapidly adopted smartphone technology since the early 2010s. Recent data shows that 83% of Americans ages 50 to 64 and 61% ages 65 and older own smartphones.
In 2020, 23% of Americans ages 50 and older purchased new smartphones, more than any other tech product purchased by this age group.  Social usage—including calling, texting, and social media—accounts for an estimated 45.2% of the time that adults ages 60 and older spend on their smartphones, while 54.8% of their smartphone usage is for other purposes.

Cellphone vs. Smartphone Ownership in Seniors

A mobile phone, or cellphone, is a phone that does not need a landline to make phone calls and also has texting capabilities; some mobile phones have cameras as well. However, smartphones feature internet browsing, the ability to download applications, and usually virtual keyboards.
More than 9 out of 10 Americans own a smartphone. While the senior smartphone ownership rate of 83% is below the average ownership rate, adoption has nonetheless grown rapidly in the senior sector. Relatively few older Americans own non-smartphone cell phones nowadays. Only 29% of Americans ages 65 and over own a regular cellphone, and an even lower portion of 12% in the 50 to 64 age range own one.

Senior Cellphone Ownership Demographics

Smartphone ownership has become very common among the general population, including among lower-income Americans. But the less money someone has, the less likely they are to own smartphones and other “high-tech” items.

Among Americans who have an annual income of less than $30,000, 76% own smartphones. But that percentage increases for Americans with higher annual incomes, and this trend applies to America’s seniors as well.
Among Americans ages 65 and older with an annual household income of $75,000 or more, 81% own smartphones. Lower-income seniors, however, have a lower rate of smartphone ownership. Among Americans ages 65 and older with an annual household income of less than $30,000, only 27% own smartphones.

Education level and smartphone ownership are also closely related, as 65% of seniors with bachelor’s or advanced degrees own smartphones, while only 45% of those with more limited college experience own smartphones. This decreases even more with less education, as only 27% of those with high school diplomas or less education are smartphone owners.

Changes in Ownership Over Time

Over time, especially in the last decade, seniors have adopted smartphones en masse, nearly reaching the ownership rates of people in younger age groups. In fact, older Americans have had the most significant increase in smartphone ownership of all age groups over 18 years of age. In the 50 to 64 age group, ownership increased from 34% in 2012 to 83% in 2021, and in the 65-plus age group, ownership increased from 13% to 61% during that same time period.

But there are still major barriers that have impacted the rate at which older users have adopted smartphone technology, namely accessibility barriers. While the majority of Americans over the age of 50 feel they have adequate digital skills to navigate life online, most also feel that modern technology companies don’t consider how seniors use their devices when designing new products. Older adults also tend to have more limited incomes than younger people, which can make it more difficult to find affordable smartphones.
Moving forward, as the current populations that have grown up with technology age, smartphone makers will need to address issues of accessibility and ergonomic design to meet the needs of older users.

How Seniors Use Smartphones

American adults, on average, spend about 4.5 hours on their mobile devices daily. But people ages 60 and up are estimated to spend far less time—just over 2.5 hours—on their phones each day.

Seniors typically use their smartphones to check emails, make online searches, get directions, and stay connected with their friends and family. And older Americans prefer to use their smartphones over other devices when accessing social networking platforms. About 55% of their social media sign-ins are executed with smartphones, compared with only 47% and 41% with computers and tablets, respectively. YouTube is the most used app by older Americans, with an 83% usage rate among those ages 50 to 64 and a 49% usage rate for those 65 and older.
In 2022, 30% of Americans ages 50 and over chose to exclusively or primarily stream their video content. By 2023, this had increased to 33%. About one-third of those older Americans streamed that video content using their smartphones in 2023, compared with more than half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 49.

Phone Overuse

Though the elderly gravitate toward smartphones to fulfill much of their social and entertainment needs, they have a relatively low risk of problematic smartphone usage (PSU), which refers to phone overuse that heavily impacts and impairs a person’s daily functioning.

A study of Norwegians over the age of 60 revealed that only 2.4% of people in this age group suffer from PSU. The study’s authors believed that older adults are less prone to PSU than younger people because they have a higher degree of self-control and are not driven to use their devices due to loneliness or a fear of being out of touch with events occurring in their social circles. 

Nonetheless, older smartphone users do not appear to be fully immune to this “fear of missing out,” as social media use was the most popular smartphone activity cited by those who were surveyed in that study.

The study results indicated that older people generally have a good sense of how high or low their smartphone social media intake is relative to their peers. Those who classified their smartphone social media use as being of a “very low” amount averaged less than 20 minutes of social media use on their smartphones per day, which is indeed less than half the average daily time (39.8 minutes) spent on that activity by the rest of their age cohort. 

Meanwhile, survey respondents who classified their smartphone social media use as being of a “very high” amount averaged 67.6 minutes of social media use on their smartphones each day, which is about 70% higher than the average for their age cohort.


What’s the difference between a cellphone and a smartphone?

Although all cell phones can make calls and send texts, smartphones allow users to browse the web and download internet-based applications.

How many seniors own smartphones?

Among Americans ages 65 and older, 61% report owning a smartphone. That figure jumps to 83% for Americans ages 50 to 64.

How do seniors use smartphones?

It’s estimated that about 45% of the time that people ages 60 and older spend on their smartphones is devoted to social use, including calling, texting, and accessing social media. The remaining 55% of the time spent on smartphones within that age cohort is for non-social use.

What are the easiest cell phones for seniors to use?

Cell phones that are easiest for seniors to use have high-quality speakers, large screens, and a durable build, among other qualities. Check out this guide for more tips on what features to look for in a mobile phone for seniors.


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