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Square dancing and big fonts: How China’s elderly use the internet

China has as many elderly internet users as the total population of Germany

This article originally appeared on ABACUS
Elderly people may not be who you think of when you think tech, but given that they make up almost a third of China’s massive population, they’re a tempting target for app developers.

iQiyi, one of China’s most popular video streaming platforms, just launched a new short video app specifically designed for people aged over 50. Jinshi has has bigger fonts, its videos are horizontal, and it allows users to turn video into audio with one tap in case they can’t see clearly.

As of June 2018, one in every eight people aged above 50 in China uses the internet on mobile devices. While it’s definitely lower than the mobile internet penetration rate for the overall population ( 54%), it’s growing rapidly.


WeChat is both the first app most elderly Chinese learn to use and the one they use most frequently, according to the Research Report on Internet Life in Middle-aged and Aged Chinese, a study conducted by Tencent and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in March.

WeChat, the app that does everything

The report says an incredible 98.5% of elderly Chinese internet users know how to use WeChat to chat with others, 81.6% know how to use WeChat Moments (think Facebook’s news feed, but in WeChat) while only 51.5% know how to use mobile payments.

But beyond the big apps, it’s also helping smaller apps targeted solely at this audience.

Tangdou, for example, is a square dance platform that’s extremely popular among female elderly people. On both its app and WeChat mini program, Tangdou allows users to view square dance videos, join a dance team near you, socialize with other users and enjoy other content -- like health stories.

They’re very different apps, but Tangdou and Jinshi share common features: Larger fonts, simple user interaction as well as less content per page.

Tangdou even boasts that its app is so accessible, you can do anything within two taps.

Launched in 2015, Tangdou seems to fit right into the needs of millions of elderly Chinese people. At the end of 2016, it reached 2.5 million daily active users. And in August 2018, three of its WeChat mini programs entered the top 10 most popular mini programs, beat many other popular programs like Weibo and Meituan, as Aldzs and Aldwx analysed.

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.