An expected 3.5 million people will reach the age of 65 by 2023. And today’s seniors are more tech-savvy and connected than ever before – 59 percent of Americans age 65 or older go online, and 77 percent have cell phones, according to a Pew Research study. Like younger patient populations, they want more ways to connect with their health care providers and manage their health with technology. Is your practice ready to catch the wave of “silver surfers” heading your way?

Silver surfers — the next wave of online health seekers
With more than one out of two seniors online, providing them with reputable health information on your website, social media pages, and in your waiting room is a must. This is easy to do with internet-based patient education programs. Although the numbers of adopters are growing, today’s seniors didn’t grow up with the Internet, so they may not be as comfortable conducting online searches or seeking out information on their own the way younger generations are.

Interestingly, though, studies show that seniors are relatively high users of social networking sites. The Pew study found that 46 percent of online seniors (representing 27 percent of the total older adult population) use social networking sites such as Facebook, and that most of this group say they socialize with others on a daily or near-daily basis. What does this mean for doctors? You’d better be on Facebook, and keep that page up to date with top-notch content if you want these social media-savvy seniors to be engaged with your practice. After all, word-of-mouth is still one of the top ways people find new doctors.

Don’t neglect the less tech-savvy set
While more than half of seniors are online, it’s important not to forget the 41 percent who do not use the Internet at all. What can you do to reach these patients? Offer them high-quality health information in your office. Showcase medical animations on a TV in your waiting room or hand them an iPad to show them a video about their condition while they’re waiting for you in the exam room.

Targeting your tech to seniors
While more seniors are adopting technology, this group does face some unique challenges. What can you do to make sure your practice’s technology is accessible and helpful to your senior patients?

Around two in five seniors indicate that they have a “physical or health condition that makes reading difficult or challenging,” making them significantly less likely than seniors who do not face these physical challenges to go online (49 percent vs. 66 percent). These patients will do better with visual patient-education materials that make use of pictures and videos rather than text-heavy materials.

Even for seniors who don’t have physical limitations, there can be a learning curve when it comes to tech. More than 75 percent of all seniors said they need help using new technologies like tablets. But once they get the hang of it, they’re off and running — among older adults, tablets and e-book readers are as popular as smartphones. Some 27 percent of seniors own a tablet, an e-book reader, or both, while 18 percent own a smartphone — all the more reason to use iPad apps to enhance your discussions about eye health and surgery in the exam room.

Despite some challenges facing the older adult population when it comes to technology, most seniors who embrace tech make it a regular part of their lives. So when it comes to thinking about your practice’s technology, don’t forget these “silver surfers” who are looking to be active, engaged, and connected participants in their health care.

For more information about our patient-education software, Echo, or for a demo of our new Echo for iPad apps, contact us today.