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Texting Is Part of the Lifestyle of Most Older Americans

What lifestyle habits do millennials and people over 50 have in common? According to a recent study by the AARP, text messaging is a significant part of the lives of both demographics. Much like millennials, older adults are leaning on texting as a way to stay connected.

In the survey, people over 50 were asked how they communicate with friends and family on a monthly basis. For people under 70, text messaging has now surpassed email as the most popular tool for staying connected. In total, 86 percent of people older than 50 connect with other people through text messaging, a significant jump from the 79 percent who did so just two years ago.

While the cliché might be that older Americans are technophobic, the results of the AARP survey tell a different story. For example, 78 percent of people aged 50-59 own and use smartphones, slightly ahead of the 77 percent smartphone adoption rate for all Americans.

It’s not just the AARP survey that suggests the ubiquity of text messaging for older Americans. In a 2015 survey by Experian, 94 percent of the “silent generation” who owned smartphones reported texting weekly. This was a higher number than any other demographic – including millennials.

Ultimately, the reasons that older Americans prefer text messaging are the same as people in other demographic groups. Texting is less invasive than a phone call, with a recipient being able to respond at their convenience. At the same time, the immediacy of receiving a text means that messages are read and replied to by recipients.

The theory that messaging preferences are similar across demographics is backed by research published in 2017 in the Journal of Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies Engineering, which looked at mobile messaging preferences by age group. This research suggested that many basic messaging guidelines apply to the general population along with older adults including:

  • Keeping messages short and straightforward
  • Limiting the use of humor, in particular language that reads as “textese” (such as “OMG” or “LOL”)
  • Using a polite tone with proper grammar

However, the study did suggest some differences in messaging habits that brands will want to consider when connecting to older Americans. One consideration is that older adults are more likely to have limited text messaging plans than younger adults. If you are targeting older Americans, you might want to consider limiting the number of text messages they receive from you over a given period.

Other recommendations from this study included:

  • Phrasing messages to so they are addressed directly to individuals (i.e. “you”) versus a group of "other" people (i.e. “they”)
  • Avoiding multiple punctuation marks (i.e. “!” versus “!!!”)
  • Leaving out emoticons as part of a message

These studies, when taken as a whole, tell a story. Older Americans are using text messaging on a regular basis to communicate with friends and family. There’s no reason why brands shouldn’t take steps to reach this demographic via text – a channel which is comfortable and familiar to them.

mGage understands the importance of tailoring messaging campaigns to your target audience – whether its millennials or older Americans. Our experience working with leading brands to reach audiences in all demographics means that we can provide you with general messaging best practices along with ways to reach specific audiences.

Contact us today to start a discussion.

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