This year, we expect 8.2 million baby boomers in the US will use a smart speaker. That's a 28.6% increase from 2017, according to our estimates.
Adoption by baby boomers is a clear sign that smart speakers have become mainstream, with younger boomers outpacing teens in usage. One big reason? Not having to type every little thing into a small screen.
"Boomers are using the speakers for simple tasks, such as asking for news and weather updates and making calls, which differs from younger smart speaker users who are using more features of the device like smart home control," said Jaimie Chung, forecasting analyst at eMarketer.
What's more, some older boomers are starting to have difficulty with mobility, dexterity and declining vision. Voice interfaces remove some of the friction associated with these problems and make it easier to access information than using keyboards or smartphones. "Some of the large tech companies—and many startups—are working on apps designed to help boomers and seniors manage age in place and manage their health," said Victoria Petrock, principal analyst at eMarketer. "As more of these hit the market, and the technology becomes more sophisticated, we're going to see more adoption in this age group."
Factors like privacy are also holding many back from adoption.
In an interview for our "Younger Baby Boomers as Digital Users" report, Lisa D'Ambrosio, research associate at MIT AgeLab, said privacy with smart speakers is definitely an issue. “It’s one thing to think, ‘OK, the photo I just posted on Facebook is going to be widely available’ vs. ‘I have a smart speaker in my home, and it’s eavesdropping on my conversation.'"
However, boomers may gain more comfort with smart speakers as their capabilities become widespread among multiple devices. “To the extent that so much technology is moving toward voice technology that you can activate just by speaking a command, that does make it much more user-friendly for older adults,” D’Ambrosio said.