Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
Are seniors missing the tablet and e-Reader boomlet? Las Vegas can rest now. It has been left to its own devices, so to speak, now that CES has left town for another year. Exhibitors, never original, seized on swipe and touch trends started by Apple -- reports from the show noted that 'Android tablets have sprung up around CES like worms after a rainstorm' and how many types will be sitting in stores in 2012. So why don't seniors want to buy them? Pew Research published a glowingly titled doc recently titled Tablets and e-Reader Ownership Nearly Double Over the Holiday Gift-Giving Period and headlined that 'overall at least 29% of Americans own at least one of them.' And the 50-64 year-olds did show a significant increase in tablet ownership from December 2011-2012 -- from 8-15%. But as the Pew data shows, the 65+ are not flocking to the store to pick up a tablet-- a mere increase from 5 to 7%. Maritz did some profiling the younger folk: the average tablet buyer is aged 38-41, with an income of approximately $70K, tablet buyers are likely to be male. Older women seem to like the e-Reader more, with ownership jumping from 8-12% year over year, average e-book buying woman is aged 44. So what's the, er, story here?
Trendy does not make a device necessary - unless it is. So you like to buy books, huh? Unimpressed with Wal-Mart's selection? Do you live near a bookstore? Oh, it's one of the 200 Borders stores that are closing? Or were they one of the Barnes and Noble dearly departed? Meanwhile, seizing the day, US public libraries have jumped into the e-book lending -- beginning to make that $79-99 Kindle about more than readying the purchaser for one $9.99 book purchase after another. At least for Amazon Prime users, if the library lends e-Books, they can 'take out' 1 e-book per month. Hopefully this will help stem the tide of dwindling library services. Looking down the road, though, e-Reader devices will start to look like the have-have not product that will eventually separate the people who have an opportunity to read books (including home-bound seniors) from those can't seem to find those increasingly rare paper versions anywhere.
Tablets -- necessary or out of reach for seniors? Back to the $70K income level of the tablet buyer -- maybe the Kindle Fire tablet at $199, which includes the e-Reader app -- will look attractive to those book-buying barely boomer women. But the 65+ female may look at the tablet and say 'Why?' Maybe for the following reasons: median income for women aged 65+ is $15,282. That's a barrier, as is broadband penetration (31%), and e-book download-enabling through potentially costly data plans. So those significant limiting factors are big deals. But let's get to what I think of as the 'pet rock' syndrome.
Does anyone really NEED a tablet? You know that tablet buyers already have PCs or Macs, smart phones and a library of software waiting to be downloaded, upgraded, patched, or backed up. Given the demographics of the tablet buyers, think of how many of the 'must-have' tech purchases people make, many of which stretch their credit cards and cell contracts out into oblivion. Like the latest smart phones that aren't ready for prime time, the software versions that are filled with bugs or incompatible with each other, and the planned obsolescence built into design for manufacturing. These are the gotta-have pet rock purchases of devices that render the prior device out of sight in a drawer of similarly behind-the-times has-beens, destined someday for landfills. As I stare at the various devices on my desk and hidden away from view, maybe the 65+ cohort knows what the rest of us buyers of junk-to-be refuse to grasp -- that what you think you need now may be a waste of time and money.