It is hard to think of our parents as tech savvy, early adopters. The Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) and the generation before them aren’t seen as being on the cutting edge of technology. However, many have adapted to using computers and other tech from exposure in the workplace. Most carry a cell phone, and smart phone adoption is very high among this generation. And a growing number, over 50%, have a tablet or iPad. So, if they’re not inherently digital natives, these pioneers are picking up devices and reaping the benefits.
Entrepreneurs have now started designing for this population in growing numbers as older consumers have expressed a desire to stay in their own homes as long as possible. Called “aging in place”, this movement is creating a need for products and services available on digital devices. The desire to live independently as long as possibly is driving older people to embrace new technology even more so they can access new products and services easily from their home and meet their needs without leaving their home.
A lot of this tech is clearly making life better, simpler and more convenient for every generation. Consider Uber or Lyft, streaming entertainment, or meal box delivery. Technology can also help find caregivers, detect falls and call for help, protect older adults from financial scams and fraud, and provide concierge type services such as roommate matching and home protection. The possibilities are endless and only require the older population to learn about what is available to them.
How can family help?
Research shows that most older adults cite their children and grandchildren as the reason they adopt new technology. This includes texting, streaming television and movies, and using online shopping sites. Social media sites have seen explosive growth among older adults as they want to see their friends and families’ photos and activities and make connections.
When the time comes for older family members to explore technology that can help them stay safely in their home, both younger family members and peers are influential in recommending new apps, services and devices, and helping them learn to use them. They also help break down the barriers to adopting new technology, like the fear of making mistakes and the security of their data when using services. As an example, approximately half of older adults bank online, citing security as a concern, and fear of learning a new platform as the other. Having someone they trust walk them through the process changes that perspective.
Giving technology as a gift is also a great way to encourage adoption. The price drop for voice-assisted technology during this past holiday season made devices like the Amazon Echo or Google Home great gift options for older family members. These platforms are fun for music, jokes and news, plus developers are creating all types of apps to assist people in their homes. These range from light and temperature control to shopping, and “aging in place” applications for older adults. Early introduction to new tech is a great way to introduce the benefits to older family members before they have a pressing need for assistance and services and less time to adapt.