Work & Purpose

Older Workers Are More Tech Savvy Than We Think

A workplace technology survey turns the ageist stereotype on its head

(This article appeared previously on HuffingtonPost50.com.)

Forget the stereotype of older people fumbling around with smartphones and not being able to find the power button on a computer. A new study says that the notion of older people not being very tech-savvy is mostly a myth.

The file-sharing app Dropbox and market research firm Ipsos Mori teamed up to ask 4,000 workers of all ages in the information sector about their experience with technology. Despite abundant stereotypes that older people aren’t comfortable with technology, the survey found that just a quarter of people over 55 felt stressed out working with technology in the workplace. While the percentage isn’t low, consider this: 36 percent of young adults, who seem to be favored by the tech industry, shared the same frustration.

Only 13 percent of older users reported issues working with multiple methods of technology, compared with 37 percent of younger people.

Similarly, the survey found that only 13 percent of older users reported issues working with multiple methods of technology, compared with 37 percent of younger people.

Digital Natives Less Flexible

The findings may come as a surprise not only to those who have negative stereotypes of older adults being technologically challenged, but to people within the industry itself. While ageism in hiring is a problem across sectors, it seems to be especially rampant in tech with companies blatantly seeking only “young” workers or “digital natives.”

So how to explain the survey? Dropbox Pro’s head of product, Rob Baesman, tells CIO.com it could be that younger users are just more demanding when it comes to expectations of technology.

“When you look at the technologies broadly still in use in the workplace, they often don’t achieve that level of cleanliness and personability [of the technology] in our personal lives,” Baesman said. “So younger people will feel frustration at tools that are not up to snuff.”

Older Workers and The Power of Experience

He’s talking about your sleek, expensive personal smartphone compared to your clunky, more functional business phone. Or your slow, years-old office desktop compared with your newer personal laptop.

Older people, on the other hand, Baesman thinks, “have seen a lot worse … so there may be more tolerance for tech that may not always be as good as it might be.”

Well, patience is a virtue. Whatever the explanation, ageism in the workplace is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed and this survey can’t hurt.

By Yagana Shah
Yagana Shah is a writer and editor for Huff/Post50.

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