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Pump up the boomer volume on tech hype
CNBC wants to believe boomers represent big business. Tom Brokaw says it is so about 'boomer$' -- in a book and a CNBC upcoming TV special. Since baby boomers are 'history's wealthiest and most influential generation', it must have made sense to send CNBC's Silicon Valley bureau chief Jim Goldman out to sniff out boomer tolerance for technology -- especially given the Microsoft-AARP 2009 conversational focus group study about Boomers and Technology (to sum that up -- boomers like technology, but want it to be more intuitive.)
Get your hype antenna up -- find the 'business'. Let's just scoot past the point that boomers span 18 years, age 46 to 64, and thus have very little in common in terms of life concerns. Per the CNBC article, proof that they are ready to spend money? In 2008, boomers as a group were 'very nervous about the economy', but now, thankfully, they are worried about the cost of healthcare, so 'that might mean they are ready to spend a little more.' On what? A free Kurzweil Blio e-reader, not yet shipping. It is especially good to know this year, that if given a choice, they will cling tight to their Internet access, versus their cellphones (last year's cling). They spend an inordinate time online: proof is that Facebook's fastest growing demographic is women 55 and over and further proof -- the blooming of blogs like 'thesavvyboomer' (sorry, it went off the air January 9).
Whew -- it gets better -- big companies are 'racing' to capture marketshare. Let's just pause for a small moment on that one -- which mentions Intel, Microsoft, and Apple. Proof point for Apple, whose marketing still reflects 'cool, young' -- their free one-to-one teaching sessions inside the retail locations (with its yet-to-be-proven-useful trove of brain games) are 'populated more and more by Boomer customers nowadays.' Other than the Intel Health Guide (health management) and the Intel Reader (for those with reading-based disabilities), there are no Intel products for boomers to buy -- and although Microsoft funded the study about boomers, to date it does not acknowledge boomers/seniors or any age range -- as for ease of use of products, let's not go there.
Where are the tech businesses to help boomers as they age? Rant on. Let's invert the CNBC plotline. With such deep pockets of wealth, with an interest in all things Internet, with a willingness to try technologies and seek training, it's a puzzle to me. Why isn't there more age-targeted technology for a boomer-consumer to try and use -- as they skip out of their forties and fifties, and slog their way into their 60's and beyond? The fact is that the first wave of boomers will become seniors (65+) next year. Individuals entering their 60's are sicker and less physically fit than the prior generation. They do or are about to suffer from chronic diseases, including hearing, vision, and perhaps dexterity issues. They must put on their reading glasses to squint at their TV remote buttons, which are smaller and less meaningful than ever. And their BlackBerry and iPhone options and settings are baffling (that's why they're in the Apple store for the free training!). Rant off.
Let's go beyond the hype about the future boomer tech business boom (which seems to me must involve revenue at some point). A big business trend -- boomers themselves are generating business -- their own when they lose their jobs or retire. For the past ten years, according to the Kauffman Foundation, Americans in the 55-to-64 age group have posted the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity of any age group. And some have been tech-related, like RetiredBrains.com -- a real success story!