Generational Gaps in Technology Adoption

How often have we seen or heard someone in their 60’s or 70’s say they don’t understand why people use social media? Or complain about having to use a bank ATM? Or even a computer? Contrary to what we might think however, older generations don’t actually dislike technology, it’s just that many tech companies don’t consider how an older generation might adopt their tools.

The older we get, the more we are “set in our ways” is a truism most of us accept. But most any age will adopt a new technology when it fits into their routines and rituals. This is where many technologies fail. Most technology is developed to solve a particular problem and is often inflexible in terms of solving other problems or challenges in different ways. The more flexible a technology can be, the more likely it will be adopted across a broader group.

Social media are a prime example. We often hear seniors complain and say it’s useless. But when they’re shown how they can use it to connect more closely with distant family and that they don’t have to be very public, they’ll adopt it. The key is that older generations will use technology in different ways, typically less often and in highly ritualized ways.

It’s also important to understand cognitive differences in generations. Those who are 65+ are a more tactile, physical thinking group. They’ve grown up “hands-on” if you will. The only non-physical aspect to their use of technology that’s interactive is using a telephone, but even that has an immediate and direct feedback loop in conversing. The other technologies are radio and television, which also have more immediate feedback loops.

Most new technologies have feedback loops, such as notifications and likes, but they require a different cognitive approach to use and management.

These are the core reasons for generational gaps in adoption and use of technology. If you’re a startup that wants to cross generations, these are key factors to keep in mind.

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