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Technology for seniors – many surveys, what can we learn?
There is a survey echo in here. Rant on. In listening to a presentation yesterday, I was struck by the similarity of the content between what older adults want from technology (now), what an older version of responders told the Linkage Technology Survey of 2011, versus Healthy@Home 2008 versus...pick a survey, any survey. Older adults aged 60 and beyond, including the 75+ age range that previous posts have designated as the Real Senior, want to stay in their own home. Okay. They are interested in some technologies that would be enablers. Okay. They perceive those technologies that they do not yet have as possibly too costly. Developers are concerned about building technology into new homes for fear of it becoming obsolete. In conclusion, older adults appear to be unaware of the technologies that could be enablers for remaining longer in their homes -- and they will not remodel specifically to get them.
Seniors don’t like or feel comfortable with the tech that exists. Never mind what new technology should be designed or how cool the design can be. Never mind that it can be made more/less obtrusive, more/less functional, more/less mobile, that their homes could be more automated and smart. Let us just STOP for a moment and ask: Who really understands why the current tech offerings in the market are not being seized by the population that could benefit from their use? What is the gap? We are staring at growing chasms – they yawn between the makers and the users of technology, and truthfully, between the expert advisors and the makers.
A theory: Customization and flexibility are creating the chasm. As we march forward in this inexorable technology road trip, product demos are all around. For your new easy-to-use tablet or smartphone, here’s how you change the settings, the brightness, the icon size, the font, the memory, browser settings, the applications, the features, the case choices. Who are your contacts, what are your most relevant apps, how do you keep your devices secure and up-to-date from easy attack by predators who want to steal something you value? We have lost the Levittown simplicity of homes (rooms into which you put a limited amount of furniture, plus a phone on the wall with a long cord). And we have lost the Atari simplicity of technology – turn it on and the game is ready to go. Consider today’s complexity of the coffee maker, temperature control settings, connecting a TV to the Internet, the dashboard of a newer car, the TV remote, Netflix profiles configuration, out-of-the-box setup of a new tablet, and on and on.
We the consumers have enabled the makers to run amok. While on the positive side, plugs and connectors are increasingly standard, what they connect to is becoming more feature-rich, and thus more customizable and complex to remove from the box and actually use. Because some of the consumers buy these gadgets and gear that is on the market, it is presumed that these must be the right gadgets, designed for all people, even though some in the ‘all people’ may be reduced to a state of frustrated and overwhelmed fear and a sense of creeping incompetence. But for the product maker, the goal was met – that gadget/car/tablet/phone sold, so let’s tweak the features and make more of those things. Who are those consumers? What percent of devices are returned? Who guides on features and function? Who leads? Who integrates? Who are the guides that can help us through this thicket of complexity -- in the name of customization and flexibility? Rant off.