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Vendors: capitalize on boomer/senior age attitudes and broadband adoption
Not so surprising, and despite the Beatles and the under-30 set, the Pew generation gap study observes that for those in middle age, old age begins at 70, but that when you're over 64, you think old age begins at 74. Moreover, 60% of those over the age of 65 feel younger than their actual age. Cool.
- But despite perception gap, age brings constraints. The Pew study highlighted some clear constraints in the lives of those 85 and older -- 41% reported some memory loss, 30% reported depression, and 25% reported no longer being able to drive. From the study: "However, a handful of potential markers--failing health, an inability to live independently, an inability to drive, difficulty with stairs--engender agreement across all generations about the degree to which they serve as an indicator of old age. Okay -- let's think about these constraints and look at the Pew study about broadband adoption.
- Broadband access has grown rapidly among seniors. Is it surprising that the percentage of seniors age 65+ with broadband jumped in just the past year, from 19% to 30%? And 61% of older baby boomers (age 50-64) now have access to broadband. And despite the recession, according to Pew, lower incomes are not a deterrent and those who had broadband access already are not cutting back in their Internet services.
- Cell phone, not broadband? Paul Lamb recently cited this same Pew Study that indicated lack of 'relevance' as the primary reason for not adopting broadband. He observed in the San Jose Mercury News that while seniors and the disabled would reap benefits of broadband access - most notably for "telemedicine, distance learning, eGovernment, telecommuting and social networking opportunities", infrastructure investment should be in mobile phones, not broadband. The US should follow the example of less affluent countries, skip PCs and broadband access. Instead, focus on cell phones, which are increasingly going to be smart, are the platform with potential in the future, especially given current adoption level (85% of Americans) and the phone's growing smarts -- texting, browsing, locating services.
- Broadband does not lack relevance -- just exposure. I disagree with Mr. Lamb's argument that the future should target the ever-smarter phone because dial-up and non-users haven't yet seen the Internet's usefulness. First of all, cell phones are already widely adopted. No one has to push, it just happened - we adopted them so that we could stay more connected to others when we're outside the home. I would also argue that the so-called lack of relevance, the 'I just don't want to' response, is a result of lack of exposure -- just as cell phones might not have seemed relevant a decade ago. Observation of other people's beneficial use is what drives us declare a product or service as necessary versus optional or 'irrelevant'.
- Put it together. So in the generation gap study, all ages agreed that 'old' is when we start to lose independence, have more difficulty navigating stairs, stop driving. Maybe then we'll spend more time in our homes than out on the road -- where we may feel less connected to the outside world. High-speed Internet access for seniors will then offer a doorway out to a virtual 'on the road' capability to connect with peers, family, in-home services, learning, fun and games, finding transportation, sharing ways to cope with chronic illness, etc. And the form factor comes with large screens!
- Vendors can make it so. The past few years have seen the emergence of software to hide the often baffling complexity of a PC: Pointerware, Big Screen Live, Famililink, IN2L, MywayVillage, Microsoft/HP Senior PC, etc. I hope many more will enter. The touch screen all-in-1 PC has emerged from HP, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, Viewsonic, and many others. And Internet access is trundling from Comcast to Verizon across the country, probably just in time to see the obsolescence of what we used to think of as POTV (plain old television).
- Is there a better time to find customers? Why not offer a half-price all-in-1 touch screen PC demo'd at one of the 15,000 senior centers or 29,000 gyms in the US -- follow firstSTREET's GO Computer innovation lead -- bundle in some partnered service. Then copy Jitterbug and advertise broadly on TV. Get the endorsement of AARP. Just think about the 70% of those age 65+ who don't have broadband -- this year, but perhaps next year....Gee -- that's a market!!!!
And to those vendors who are still resting on surveys that say seniors won't use a PC, watch 30 seconds of a video. That excuse is becoming old.