We all know that Baby Boomers and seniors have had an incredibly challenging time during this pandemic. Older generations have shown particular resilience through this time, with many not being able to see friends and family for months. All in the name of rightly protecting their health. With Government and media messaging telling seniors they are the most vulnerable group, their determination to power through this challenge has been apparent across the world.
We wanted to find out how the older generations’ lives had changed and what new decisions they were making due to this transformative period. We spoke to over 1,400 seniors and Baby Boomers across North America to let them have their say on COVID-19.
Table of contents
- 3 in 5 Baby Boomers felt no change, or less connected to their loved ones
- Video calls were used by 72% of older generations
- Older generations used a range of video calling software
- Technology habits have changed greatly
- Netflix and Disney+ help seniors to embrace nostalgia
- Seniors are getting family support with new technology
- 2 in 5 are discovering their smartphone camera
- Spirituality and mental health is now more important to seniors
- Almost half have been online shopping more
- 35% have been introduced to online banking
- Older generations have been keeping themselves busy with new hobbies
- 3 in 5 more inclined to try bucket list experiences
- Almost a third trying plant-based food due to lockdown
- Older generations are getting more active
A trend emerged from our analysis that the majority of older generations understandably, did not feel more connected to their loved ones during this pandemic. 38% felt that they were less connected to their family and friends, with a further 18% feeling no change in sentiment. Interestingly, there was a group of 44% that said actually they felt more connected.
One way that families and friends have tried to connect with each other more during this time is through the use of video calls.
72% of Baby Boomers and seniors said that they used video calling at some point during the pandemic. Whilst in-person conversations have understandably decreased, those seniors who used video calls more than 4 times a week has increased by 11%. There was a further 5% increase for those who previously did not use video calls weekly, too. Initially, 15% reported they don’t use video calls weekly, this dropped to only 10% indicating they don’t have weekly video calls.
54% say video calls made them feel closer and more connected to family
For those that did enjoy the use of video calling, 54% said that it helped them feel closer, and more connected, to their family and friends, indicating it was a primary force behind the overall senior population feeling somewhat closer to their loved ones this year. Just over a quarter (26%) of video callers however, stated that video calls made them feel less connected.
In addition to this, 42% of the sample also went on to say that this connection and closeness had a positive impact on their mental and physical wellbeing. Video calls may have been responsible for much more than family catch-ups!
We asked our seniors and Boomers which video calling software they were using, the top spot won’t surprise anyone as Zoom has become synonymous with video calling. You can now say “Shall we Zoom tonight?” and people will understand you wish to video call. No one saw that coming in 2020.
Overall, when we asked our group of seniors who used video calls, if the technology helped them with lockdown, a majority of 73% agreed that calls did make the lockdown period of the pandemic ‘easier’.
As we know video calling was already a huge part of the pandemic, but what other technology choices were seniors making?
Video calling was naturally the most used new technology for seniors, but over 2 in 5 engaged with new social media apps, as well as TV streaming services like Disney+ and Netflix. Almost a third of seniors did not try any form of new technology during this time, but for those that did, there was a lot of variety in where their time and efforts went.
Of the 41% of our sample who tried TV streaming services, the main reasons for doing so were to pass the time, to enjoy the nostalgia of old TV shows and films, and to assist with their mental wellbeing. The full list of reasons given by seniors can be found in the chart below.
One large challenge older generations often find with new technology is understanding it without any introductions or teaching. We wanted to find out how the older generations had coped with this challenge during 2020. On the whole, 93% of seniors felt that they were able to access support in some form, with the most popular method (57%) being support through their family and friends, followed by 29% who were able to be their own tech support. When looking at the data further, we can see that those aged 55-64 were 7% more likely to teach themselves new technology, than those aged 65-74. All ages however stated that using their friends and family for tech support was their preferred method.
With smartphone cameras improving every year, and social media platforms like Instagram having almost 2 in 5 North American adults as regular users, it’s no surprise that many are engaging with photography more.
Just over 2 in 5 (42%) of our sample revealed that they were using the camera on their smartphone more. When factoring for the rise in video calls, and considering that our sample was surveyed deep into the fall season, this is not that shocking. Many seniors will have had the time to use new technology, as well as the requirement for a camera to speak to their loved ones on Zoom and FaceTime.
There is no doubt that there is a sizable shift in technology usage for seniors, so we asked the important question, as to whether they felt they may stick to any aspect of their tech choices moving into 2021.
71% plan to stick with their new technology choices due to COVID-19
A large majority of 85% said that the pandemic has encouraged them to think and talk about mental health. Mental health is often only discussed in terms of the younger generations, however, Baby Boomers and seniors should not be underestimated in their ability to look after their mental wellbeing too.
In addition to this, almost 3 in 4 (74%) seniors said they are thinking about spirituality more due to the pandemic. In fact, this year YouGov found that “being more spiritual” was one of the top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2020. Spirituality often comes in the form of religion but does not have to include being part of a religious group. Krista Tippett, a spirituality expert, previously spoke about the topic, describing it as a focus on ‘interior life’ and involving a connection with being human and embracing nature. With many in isolation for months at a time, it may not come as a surprise that many are engaging with such thoughts now.
Looking at the data further, 42% of our group now focusing on spirituality said they previously did not think about this before the pandemic. This does not explicitly mean many seniors are reflecting on life and death more, though. It does suggest that spirituality and mental health are playing a key part in how the older generation processes this difficult period
When asked about their shopping habits, almost half (46%) said that they had been shopping more online than they did before the pandemic. 23% said that they were new online shoppers, having never done it before the pandemic.
1 in 5 Baby Boomers have shopped online for the first time due to the pandemic
With this, many people will have been using online payments more than usual, or for the first time in some instances. With an increase in online shopping however, 74% said they now trust online finances more than they did before the pandemic.
With the pandemic reducing in-person meetings and events, brick-and-mortar banks have reduced their hours, and in some cases, closed their properties altogether. The majority of our sample said that these decisions had not negatively affected them. 35% stated it had introduced them to online banking, whilst a further 30% said it had made it all-round harder to get financial information. The full decision split can be found in the chart below.
When your time outside is reduced, it can be hard to think up new hobbies. It should come as no surprise that many have found a love for the kitchen, with over 2 in 5 saying they have embraced cooking as a new hobby, and 34% said baking was their newfound passion.
Away from the stove, a quarter (26%) said that they are enjoying virtual tours as a way to get some entertainment and pass the time. Virtual tours have boomed during the pandemic allowing everyone to explore castles, visit local gardens, and even ski down mountains from their couch. In fact, we’ve put together a range of virtual tours for museums and galleries ourselves as we know our own residents love them.
As well as an interest in new hobbies, the surveyed seniors revealed that they have also had a key change in mindset. When asked, 61% stated that they are now more inclined to try ‘bucket list experiences’. Perhaps we may see a surge of seniors exploring more of the world to turn a virtual tour into a physical tour.
With the surge of new chefs in the kitchen, we asked if their food preferences had changed. 30% of older generations say they have been trying more plant-based food due to the pandemic, with 21% conversely saying they have eaten more meat than they usually would.
With increased time inside their homes, people, from all generations, will be eating more food as it is available. Alongside having more opportunity to cook and eat food, people tend to get creative and try new recipes. The vegan food trend is unsurprising with many studies showing the demand for plant-based food has rocketed during the pandemic.
As well as food preferences, seniors told us about their choices surrounding healthy food and junk items. 59% said they had made healthier choices during the pandemic, with only 7% stating they are eating more junk food than usual, and the remainder stating their choices had remained consistent.
With many people being forced to stay inside during this time, food delivery services have increased in demand. We asked seniors if they had tried such services, 48% said that they had.
Overall, 88% of seniors and Baby Boomers polled said they intend to stick with some element of their food choices into 2021. This will vary from eating more plant-based food, using food delivery services, or even just making the most of cooking as a hobby.
Almost 3 in 5 (59%) say they have increased their physical activities during the pandemic, with the top three most popular activities being: walking, yoga, and cycling.
A representative group of 1,409 Baby Boomers and seniors from the USA and Canada were polled on behalf of Amica Senior Lifestyles, using Amazon’s online survey platform, Mechanical Turk. Survey responses were fielded in September and October 2020. They were asked a variety of questions relating to their lifestyle changes during and after the global pandemic. The age breakdown of our survey sample was as follows:
- 55-64 (24.6%)
- 65-74 (70.8%)
- 75-84 (3.8%)
- 85+ (0.9%)