App Usage through the Ages – Targeting Older, More Lucrative Users

Dec 15, 2017
By: Marissa Camilli

It seems that the older generation are becoming equally hooked on their mobile devices and, as a result, represent a growing (and largely untapped) opportunity for app developers hoping to expand into this increasingly lucrative market.

A Country-sized Opportunity

Smartphone ownership amongst the 65+ age group in the US soared to 42 percent last year, increasing from 30 percent in 2015.

With some 46 million people in this age group (expected to rise to more than 98 million in the next 30 years), this means that there are more smartphone users aged 65+ in the US than the entire population of the Netherlands and nearly double the population of Portugal.

If you are looking for a “country sized” opportunity for your app, you could do a lot worse than target the 65+ age group.

Not convinced? Then you should take a look at other factors such as app engagement levels and the all-important spending power of the older generation.

Committed Users

While the younger audience spends considerably more time on their smartphones engaging with apps (18-24 year olds spend some 93.5 hours or 12.5 percent of their time using apps every month), older audiences are still very committed to the technology.

Smartphone users in the 55 to 64 age group spend approximately 55.6 hours using apps per month, while the 65+ group engage with apps for 42.1 hours over the same period.


Interestingly, app usage on tablet devices is actually higher amongst many older users compared to a younger demographic. This may have something to do with the larger screen size providing a more usable environment for older people and is certainly good news for manufacturers of larger screened smartphones.

Spending Power

The real twist in the tale of young versus old comes down to the vastly different financial clout between age groups.

Growing up in the shadow of economic uncertainty, millennials are burdened with increasingly higher education debt and housing costs, and do not enjoy the same job security as their parents and grandparents did.

Because of this, the older generation have much more spending power than their younger counterparts, with the 50+ age group accounting for more than 50 percent of all consumer expenditures.

The 50+ age group in the US spends in excess of $3.2 trillion every year, which (to use another country-sized analogy) is greater than the entire combined GDP of Italy, Russia, UK, Brazil and France.

Despite this, only 10 percent of marketing dollars are targeted at this age group.

Follow the Money

Smart app developers hoping to tap into the opportunity older smartphone users present, may do well by learning how the older population spend their time and money.

  • Comparison Shopping: Shoppers over the age of 65 spend 25 percent more time every day hunting out great deals in store and online than the rest of the population. Despite the aforementioned headline figures regarding spending power, the older generation will take their time to find the right deal.
  • Hobbies: With time on their hands, the 65+ age group spend a considerable amount of money on their hobbies. And because more people are enjoying a longer, healthier retirement – don’t expect these hobbies to all be of the more sedate variety. Spend on things like recreational vehicles, sports equipment, camping gear, etc. has increased by some 10 percent since the 1990s.  
  • Healthy Living: Exercise is a big priority for seniors hoping to enjoy an active retirement. People between the ages of 65 and 74 commit more than 18 percent more time to exercise than people in the 55 to 64 age group.
  • Travel and Tourism: This is one area where seniors completely dominate the market. It is estimated that the over 65 market accounts for 80 percent of all luxury travel, 70 percent of coach tours, 65 percent of ocean cruises and 32 percent of hotel stays.
  • Education: Never underestimate the importance of the “bank of grandma and grandad” to get younger members of the family through school and college. Because of this, education is one of the fastest climbing expenses in the over 65 age group.

An Older and Wiser Opportunity

There are many advantages of targeting an older demographic beyond the size of the audience and their economic power. With so much focus on the millennial market, competition for older engagement will almost certainly be less frantic.

Of course finding success in the app market with an older user base takes exactly the same approach as targeting any other age group. It’s all about putting the right product in the hands of the right people at the right time – the advisors at Digital Turbine can walk you through the process of how you can make this happen.

How are you using apps to target an older demographic? Share your comments below:

Marissa Camilli
By Marissa Camilli
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