Why Baby Boomers are Flocking to Healthcare Apps

by | May 31, 2017 | Health Tech

Baby Boomer (ages 51-69) adoption of smartphones continues to accelerate despite the generation being typically slower to adopt technology. This is particularly true for younger baby boomers that still participate in the workforce. According to a study conducted by the AARP in 2016, 73% of 50- to 59-year-olds own a smartphone. More baby boomers now own smartphones than laptops! For most, smartphones are their preferred device to access online information. Health benefit companies have noticed this trend and that a “mobile-first” approach, even with seniors, is the preferred form of communication. The assumption that baby boomers are too old to use a mobile app is just plain wrong.

Device Owned by US Baby Boomers, by Age (July 2016)
50-59 60 – 69
Smartphone 73% 54%
Desktop 58% 54%
Tablet 51% 38%
Laptop 68% 56%
Source: AARP, “2016 Technology Trends Among Mid-Life and Older Americans,” Dec 5, 2016


HealthJoy was not always a mobile-first company. Our first application in 2014 was made for desktop. However, after holding extensive user testing and performing focus groups, we identified that mobile apps with chat-based interfaces received high marks from all age groups.

Read our Employee Benefits Communication Guide for more on the best way to communicate your benefits.

Clearly, Facebook and other instant messaging services were transforming the way in which people communicated. The same AARP survey shows that over 95% of baby boomers ages 50-59 use instant messenger. In 2015, we moved to a mobile-first approach and a chat-based interface. When our usage increased by over 25% across the board for all users, we knew we were on to something.

Smartphone activities conducted by US Baby Boomer Smartphone Owners
50-59 60-69
Send IMs or email 95% 92%
Get directions 85% 75%
Surf the web 80% 67%
Access social networks 71% 68%
Download apps 70% 56%
Play games 51% 56%


The second phase in HealthJoy’s transition to a mobile-first approach was the 2016 introduction of JOY, our virtual assistant. Our interactive assistant has improved user satisfaction ratings and increased utilization. We now conduct personalized outbound messages and surveys instantly that would have been impossible for our healthcare concierge team to perform over the phone. Our engagement numbers continue to rise for all our age demographics. We still offer phone-based service as an option for our members, but the percentage who call us continues to decline, even for baby boomers. In 2014, almost 20% of our membership used our landlines to access HealthJoy. Today less than 5% of members prefer dialing in to chatting in the app.

As we move forward, we will continue to improve our application to deliver the best, most comprehensive health benefits solution for everyone. Smartphone adoption is only going to increase, so we expect our numbers to only improve moving forward. The assumption that baby boomers won’t use technology to engage with their healthcare is not reflected in our business. We believe that older generations will continue to adopt technology faster than ever and turn to their smartphone as the preferred source of information. 

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