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Older Adults Increasingly Adopt Text Messaging

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New research from US operator, Sprint Nextel confirms that the under 30 crowd is definitely texting in mass, and they're driving their parents to text, too. The number of adults who are texting has risen from just two years ago, when a 2006 Pew Research study cited that 13 percent of adults ages 50 64 used the text messaging function on their mobile phone. The Sprint study reveals that now 20 percent of adults ages 55 64 send text messages.

Seventy-six percent of adults ages 55-64 who are texting are sending messages to their children. According to 2007 U.S. Census Bureau data, 57 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds have children ages 18-24. With those kids away at college or living in different cities, texting is a fast and efficient way for parents to stay in touch. According to a survey conducted by Opinion Research, a text is far more likely to elicit a quick response than voice mail. In fact, those under the age of 30 are four times more likely to respond within minutes to a text message compared to a voice mail, and 91 percent respond to a text message within one hour. Adults 30 and older are also quick to text -- and are twice as likely to respond within minutes to a text message as compared to a voice message.

"In addition to the increasing number of older adults texting, we found that one in 10 adults over 30 don't text because they aren't sure how to," said Kim Dixon, senior vice president of retail for Sprint. "For Sprint customers, learning to text can be easy. Visit your local Sprint store and see any of our retail associates to experience the Ready Now difference. They'll sit down and teach you how to text, send photos or use any of the other features on your wireless handset or smart phone."

Other key findings from the research include:

  • With the exception of ages 65+, all age groups are more likely to respond to a text message more quickly than a voice message. Predictably, among adults under 30 years of age, 78 percent say they respond immediately or within minutes to a text message. Even 54 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds said they respond to a text message immediately or in minutes.
  • Nearly all (96 percent) of those under 30 who are texting send messages to their friends, and 51 percent text their parents. The texting habits of adults ages 55-64 are almost the polar opposite -- 76 percent text their kids, but only 56 percent text friends.
  • Adults ages 55-64 are three times more likely to text their children than a co-worker, even though their young co-workers are more likely to respond to a text message faster than a voice message.
  • Texting frequency steadily declines with age. Eighty-five percent of 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed text at least once a day, and 67 percent text 10 or more times per day, compared to 41 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds who text at least once a day, and 12 percent who send 10 or more messages a day.

"This research confirms the anecdotal information we've been hearing from parents: Their children respond faster to text messages than to voice messages," said Dixon. "But, the research also indicates that children are more likely to get a quick response from their parents using text messaging. Given the high response rate to 'text message your children' among parental age groups (68 percent among 45- to 54-year-olds, 76 percent among 55- to 64-year-olds and 65 percent among those 65 and older), it is pretty clear that the increasing rate of text adoption in recent years is fueled by our children altering how we stay in touch with them."

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