March 2011

Aging in Place Technology Watch March 2011 Newsletter

Good luck dudes -- boost savings through virtual reality. So it seems that as a society, we are not great savers. Some researchers seem to think if young people could only imagine what they would look like in the future, they might boost their savings efforts earlier. Scientists in a Stanford lab are experimenting with the 'Proteus effect', morphing a photo of a 22-year-old into an image of what she might look like at 68 -- showing it to her through a virtual reality headset as her image in a mirror. Hmmm, now gray-haired, face sagging -- it's enough to make a 22-year-old nervous for a few minutes, long enough to answer questions about her attitudes on money, demonstrating newfound awareness and a desire to save. Maybe just looking at her grandmother, volunteering in an assisted living facility or making the trek to The Villages would produce the same 'scientific' outcome, prompting a 22-year-old to save more for retirement. The reality (not virtual)? In another poll, 18-34 year olds are more determined than older age groups to save money. Maybe Stanford could save a few bucks and apply its research to something more near-term -- how to train bankers. >>> Read more . . .

The real elderly are hidden behind demographic murkiness

Silly segmentation strikes again.  You probably didn't think about it if you read about HP's proposed new wristwatch in today's business pages of the NY Times.  Did you know that between 2008 and 2010, sale of watches fell 29% in the 18-24 age group, rose 33% in the 35-44 age group and 104% for those 65 and older?  Okay, no big deal, you say.  NPD Group, keeper of these stats, reports this as though a 6-year age range, a 9 year age range, and a 25+ year age range have comparable purchasing characteristics within the range. Misinterpretation opportunity looms large -- and if you are a watch manufacturer, it may not be time to plan on closing the business within the next 10 years based on whether 'young shoppers' may care.   In fact, it would have been great to ask a few older adults if they'd like HP's proposed wireless watch (with hands!) which could be programmed with canned responses and might have utility -- maybe even expanding the PERS opportunity downward. >>> Read more . . .

How can caring for the elderly be better work and work better?

Our future eldercare world -- too many of us, not enough trained workers.  One might want to argue with whether the current ratio is adequate, but as presented in the most recent journal of the American Society on Aging (ASA), Generations, it seems that an additional 3.5 million workers will be needed by 2030 just to maintain the current ratio of healthcare workers to an aging population -- across all aspects of care delivery.  How likely are these workers to be there?  A long list of negatives (stats and cited studies are from this journal) imperil the possibility -- here are just a few of them: >>> Read more . . .

Let's ask a journalist -- why don't older adults buy cool tech?

Do condescending headlines make readers loyal? Rant on. It's just a bit ironic, don't you think, within a single week to see both CNN Money (States Kick Grandma to the Curb) and Smart Money (Now in Vogue: Grandpa's Gadgets) join last year's New York Times' Helping Grandpa Get his Tech On headline? And let's not forget the Wall Street Journal's It's a Bummer to Be a Boomer. I wonder if these headline writers go to conferences to learn how to sneer? Try substituting a few other demographic categories of your choosing in each of these phrases and see how they sound. The mindlessness of so-called journalism is a distraction -- and no doubt deflects venture capitalist attention from what could be a remarkable opportunity if only it received clear-headed attention from journalists, investment analysts, advertisers and all of the other folk who help shape market interest. One of the dilemmas about this lack of interest is that the very products that get journalists all excited (like the non-stop drooling about the iPad) can be turnoffs for a variety of reasons that could include price, form factor, weight, functionality -- who knows? No one has bothered to survey why older adults aren't lined up outside the store. Probably because they didn't see themselves among the iPad's young, ad-click happy males -- even though the product might be useful to them as a primary computing device? >>> Read more . . .

Bridging the tech boomer-senior-market divide

2012 ALTY Blog Award Nominee

2011 pushes one demographic segment into the next -- confounding marketers.  The terms 'seniors' -- and senior citizens, elderly, aged, older adults -- and various other monikers have been around for a long time. But it's a new year. This year, as 10,000 per day (680,000 this year so far) of those trend-shaking baby boomers turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare, seize on any remaining 'senior citizen' discounts, and view next year's eligibility to take full Social Security, the pre-senior baby boomer population will dwindle by more than 3 million. And so on for the next 18 years.  How can marketers straddle both sides of the boomer-senior divide at the same time? Perhaps they will attempt euphemistic subtlety - especially since everyone knows that baby boomers don't want to see themselves as old (or as represented by any of the above terms). So step one for vendors -- stop describing and marketing products by age category, so required and peculiar to the tech industry. Unlike cars, light bulbs, washing machines, radios, even bicycles with comfortable seats, where vendors don't know who might buy them, they market to all ages to be safe. >>> Read more . . .

Tech change is challenging -- add support where the people are

Watching people watch their phones.  Over the past several months my consciousness has been raised about the pace of tech change -- and how far behind most of us are from understanding the new phone, computer or software we confront -- by choice! -- at too frequent intervals. Cell phones are kept an average of 20 months at an average monthly bill of $78. And for that expense? Pew Research observes that 35% of adults have cell phones with apps, but only two-thirds of those who have apps actually use them. Why not? According to Pew interviews, users don't know how.  Some recent phone observations: >>> Read more . . .