We’re taking our tablets

Posted on September 3, 2015 by Eleanor McKenzie
Woman using an ipad on a hammock

I use mine for doing crosswords, reading books and newspapers, listening to music and catching up on Facebook. It gets switched on at the same time with my first cup of tea of the day and I keep it close by when watching television and films in case I need to check the other films an actor has been in that I simply can’t remember. My friends of a similar age use theirs when travelling and for the same purposes as I use mine. I am, of course, talking about an iPad or Android tablet. Here’s a short guide to the differences between them.

UK households with a tablet

According to a recent Guardian report the over 50s and toddlers are leading the market for iPads and tablets. They have grown so popular over the last five years, that some 54% of UK households now have at least one of these gadgets, and one in 10 three to four-year olds have one; that’s 11% of that age group. It feels like the iPad has been around for ever, but it actually only launched in 2010, and it was swiftly followed by the Android platform competitors, such as Samsung Galaxy, Amazon Fire and many others that compete very keenly with the Apple iPad on price.

The over 50s tablet ownership

However, while the rise in use of tablets among the toddlers reflects the parental need to keep children occupied and amused during visits to restaurants, for example, or while Mummy or Daddy try to get some domestic chore finished, the statistic that most surprised the Guardian journalist, was the remarkable rise in the use of tablets among the 55+ age group. Our generation is not considered ‘tech-savvy’; frankly, we’re often believed to be a band of Luddites. However, let’s dispel that perception with a sweet statistic: in 2011 only 1% of the 55+ generation owned an iPad or tablet, but in 2015, ownership was a whopping 37%. The next highest group ownership is in the 35-54 age group, which accounts for 64%.

The baby boomers of invention

It just goes to show you that the younger generation doesn’t dominate the technology sector, which is what you’d expect. Perhaps there’s a good reason for the over-50s adoption of the iPad and tablet: our generation invented them. Stefano Hatfield from High50 remarked in an interview that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee are all members of the over 50s generation. So, it is thanks to the Baby Boomers that we have all these wonderful gadgets.

Brain waves and tablets

Grant Feller, director of GF-Media, an agency that specialises in digital content for the 50+ audience, has some insider insights into why the over 50s like tablets and iPads. You may be surprised by his analysis; I certainly hadn’t thought of it in this way.  He states that we love these gadgets because “we love to move our eyes side to side” when we are taking in information. We learn to write in straight lines from left to right and that’s how we prefer to read, rather than up and down. Our brains don’t love going up and down when we want to assimilate data, so the tablet’s technique of swiping through pages laterally is more pleasurable than scrolling down through a vertical design. I know that I personally can’t stand those websites and often jump off fast and go in search of an easier-to-read website.


Couple using an Ipad

What do you use your tablet for?

So, what are we using our tablets and iPads for? I have shared my own usage, and it seems that most people my age are using it in a similar way. Some 37% use it for Googling and 60% use it for watching video clips. It is also popularly used for catching up on TV programmes via the BBC iPlayer and ITV Player. We are also using tablets for online shopping.

Online shopping

Bonmarche, a retailer specialising the mature customers says that its online sales have increased by 70% in 2014-2015 and they attribute it to the increase in tablet and iPad device usage. Plus, the online experience on a tablet when compared with a smartphone is simply better. Research from Pew Research Center shows that people over 65 are much more likely to own a tablet than a smartphone. We are also more likely to own an e-reader device than younger people.

Apps for everything

And, let’s not forget the ‘apps’, which are a huge part of the iPad and tablet experience. We love the news apps, and apparently 48% of all mobile device users are getting their news headlines via a news app, compared to only 37% using a laptop or desktop computer. I also like the “Paper Toss” app for silly moments, and there are simply loads more to discover.

I love my tablet and I take it on my travels. It’s the most convenient way to keep in touch and be up-to-date with the world; if you haven’t tried one yet, buy one and add to the 21% of UK households who plan one in the near future, according to Ofcom; you may discover the life-changing effect of “taking the tablet!”

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by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.