Older americans and technology design

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Older americans and technology design

Posted on April 6, 2009

Linked Senior’s mission is to ease the access to entertainment for senior communities; therefore, we’re very interested in trends about seniors and technology. Products at the recent CES 2009 and recent studies from TNS Compete and the Consumer Electronics Association show our elders are picking up what a lot of us consider as “teens activities”.

One of these studies indicates that :

  • Older Americans (50+) currently comprise 31% of the US population. In 10 years they will comprise 35%
  • 78% of 50-54 year olds are online
  • 45% of 70-75 year olds are online
  • 67% of 70-somethings use a cell phone on a weekly basis
  • 37% of 60 year olds are often frustrated by technology
  • 77% of 50-somethings, 71% percent of 60-somethings and 52% of 70-somethings report having used a search engine in the past week
  • 24% of those 70+ have watched an online video in the past week
  • 83% of 18-34 year olds feel comfortable making consumer electronics purchases for their household.

General conclusions by the report writers say that after surveying and analyzing 3135 US shoppers online:

  • “Older Americans are a lot like younger Americans.” While differences do exist… 67% of 70-somethings use a cell phone on a weekly basis… a leading indicator that consumer electronics is secured as “mainstream” for Older Americans.
  • In addition, there is a universal frustration with consumer electronics products irrespective of age in that products have “too many features”.
  • The study finds that Older Americans are active online, with over 60% of people over 50 using the Internet.
  • Finally, says the report, Older Americans are embracing technology and technology products at a rapidly increasing pace.

This study, called Older Americans Not Out of It can be found here.

Another study about social networking called Social Networking Is No Respecter of Age indicates that in 2008, Facebook has added almost twice as many 50-64 year olds visitors (+13.6 million) as those under 18. This study can be found here.

While this is great and shows that seniors are not scared of technology and are actually willing to embrace them, it is disconcerting to see how little seniors are involved in the design of new electronics and technology. It seems that manufacturers have little interest in this population for the moment. From our own research, less than 1% of existing mp3 players are manufactured with any kind of impairment in mind. This is obviously interesting as a another recent report projects that the technology for aging boomer industry will reach the $20 billion mark by 2020.

“In any environment, but particularly one with difficult market conditions, companies need to learn more about how to effectively reach this critical segment of older consumers,” said Elaine Warner, director, consumer technologies, TNS Compete.