Technology for Seniors: The Tension

The two areas we hear the most about in news media when it comes to technology are Millennials (a horrible term) and industry. We hear very little about the role technology is and will play with the 55+ market. Except in Japan where it’s all about robots. They love their robots and they’re going to need them to care for the elderly.
As the developed world’s population rapidly ages over the next coming decades, technology is going to have to play a critical role. But there’s an interesting dynamic at play, especially with those already over 65 and their children and grandchildren. There is a Technology Tension that any developer of IoT devices or related products intended to aid the elderly will need to consider.
Seniors and Technology Tensions
If you speak to most people over 65, very few own a smartphone or tablet. A good number have a PC at home. Get over 70 and you see even less technology. To them, technology is not a connected tool, it is stand-alone, meant to accomplish a specific task. It should not “talk” to other tools and it shouldn’t listen or analyze what one does. In other words, it is analog and disconnected. My neighbour, who is 73, was flabbergasted the other day when the screen in her Toyota Camry she’d recently bought, suggested she take a coffee break and showed an illustration of a steaming coffee cup. She took it to the dealer to see if a) anything was wrong and b) could it please be removed? All she wanted to do was drive her car.
The Natural Resistance to Change
As people age, we know their politics tend to change. In addition, their world becomes smaller. They tend to travel less as they are decreasingly mobile. They prefer quiet and resist change.
Most technology today is incredibly intrusive and often requires one to change and adapt. This is where most IoT devices and other technologies developed for seniors tend to fail. Flashing LED’s and audible alerts may sound very pragmatic to a 32 or 45 year old inventor. They are annoying and add one more thing to a person’s day who is seeking simplicity and tranquility.
Considerations for Technology for Seniors
If you’re looking to make a device for seniors or you have one that isn’t doing well and need to make changes, you need to consider the following;
  • It should be quiet and unobtrusive
  • Management and maintenance will likely fall to the child, grandchild or care facility operator
  • It should provide a sense of empowerment to a senior, whereas most tools make seniors feel older. They don’t like that.
  • Positioning for marketing should be supporting independence.
  • You absolutely must consider the child and grandchild’s response and ability to use the product in UX/UI design.
There are other factors, but then that’s what I get paid to help companies understand, but this is a start. Understanding these tensions is key. If you want a care facility to adopt the technology, for them it must reduce operating costs, present minimal implementation and management time and have a good ROI.
What are your thoughts?

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