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The Impact of Screen Time on Older Adults


Quick quiz: How much time do young people spend looking at screens, on average per day?

It’s no secret that Gen Z is hooked on their devices. But retirees aren’t exactly immune from excessive screen time.

Increased Screen Time Among Older Adults

Among the 60+ crowd, the allure of TVs, smartphones, tablets, and other computers is hard to resist. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the amount of time that Americans aged 60 and up spend on their devices has increased by almost 30 minutes a day over the last decade.

“Screen time has increased for those in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond, and the rise is apparent across genders and education levels,” Pew reported. “Meanwhile, the time that these older adults spend on other recreational activities, such as reading or socializing, has ticked down slightly.”

Unaware of Excessive Screen Time

Concerns About Health and Wellness

Richie worries that the sedentary nature of watching a screen undermines retirees’ health and wellness. She cites obesity, eyestrain, and physical and social isolation as byproducts of heavy device use.

The Paradox of Online Interaction

You might think an older person who lives alone would feel less isolated by interacting with others online. While that can be true, there’s a downside.

Consider a grandmother who can’t travel. She reads an email or watches a short video of her grandkid’s birthday or holiday party—and wishes she could have joined the fun.

“Now she feels even more alone and sad that she’s missing out,” Richie said.

The Addictive Draw of Devices

You might also think older, wiser folks can withstand the addictive draw of devices. But again, it’s not that simple.

Retaining Connection: Balancing Technology and Quality Time

In a world where screens dominate much of our leisure time, it can be challenging to persuade retirees to step away from their devices. It’s not uncommon for adult children to express concern about their parents prioritizing screens over meaningful interactions with their grandchildren. Instead of playing mobile games, grandparents should be embracing quality time with their young loved ones.

As a tech support specialist for older clients, I’ve learned that tailoring devices to fit individual needs can help regulate usage. When providing assistance, I often begin by modifying the home screen layout. It’s like rearranging furniture in a room—streamlining the display by reducing icons and limiting the number of apps on the dock. This way, only relevant applications appear front and center.

Unnecessary apps like GarageBand or Keynote can be deleted to eliminate confusion and distraction. The sight of a cluttered phone screen can overwhelm, causing seniors to become disoriented. Additionally, we address notification settings, as older individuals tend to get caught up in various alerts that continuously demand attention. By selectively enabling notifications that truly matter and disabling the rest, we avoid unnecessary screen time with little benefit.

One of the most effective ways to reduce device use is by setting a time limit. By imposing restrictions on online activity or phone usage—especially during nighttime—we can enhance sleep quality and make room for more fulfilling, less isolating activities. Establishing boundaries can reinstate the balance between technology and real-world connections.

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