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Making ease of use the default for new product design

Do designers of new products seriously consider ease of use?  As the December buying frenzy fizzles, we are often reminded that 70% of the US economy is driven by consumer spending. We are not reminded too often about the Longevity Economy -- that 90+ million people are 50+, have most of the money, own most of the homes and cars, and thus buy the most of everything, including technology. And even the growth of social media shifts older - the fastest growing segment of Facebook users are aged 65+, Facebook has apparently saturated and/or bored teenager segments who have moved on, at least for now, to other stuff. So as some of you head off to CES exhibit halls this coming week, please consider the product user interface of what you see. Look at the TV, 'white hot' wearables, fitness devices, car tech, the ironically-titled not-so-smart phones, tablets, the health apps that apparently will eclipse the TVs.  Count the demos you see of products you could characterize as simple, elegant, easy-to-use designs for all ages, including those who need to put on their reading glasses to read the manual or the 70% of adults who suffer eye strain peering at their devices.  

Social Security and the calculators of our lives

Every day, in every way, see advice about Social Security.  It must be the most frequently asked question of all time. The NY Times ran a Money column this past weekend – probably the thousandth time they’ve run the exact same piece of advice. Wait to take Social Security until you’re 70.  Pay a bit of attention to the nearly 400 comments that wrestle the writer down – pretty much saying to take it when you’re eligible. And that’s so interesting when you look at the data the writer included -- with a deep sigh -- at the end: "Of the 1.4 million men and nearly 1.3 million women who began collecting benefits in 2012, about 1 percent of the men and nearly 2 percent of women were at least 70." Considering that virtually no one heeds it, no wonder the advice must be repeated, ad nauseum. In fact, five days earlier, the Wall Street Journal ran an article with the exact same advice! And AARP ran the same advice on October 24.  Ditto for USA Today on October 13.   

Infographics are everywhere -- is that a good thing?

Organizations love to create infographics – but why? In one click-and-slow-scan, an infographic (information graphic) can tell a story that typically takes 20 slides or a lengthy narrative. Within the past few years they have become so trendy and pervasive, along with the free and/or inexpensive tools to create them, that people are now giving advice about how to create cleaner infographics – a good idea – some are pretty awful.  In 2012, it seemed essential (although not clearly related to any objective, actually) to start collecting those that relate to aging, health,  business and technology.  Now there are quite a few, so let’s look at those from this past year – and perhaps some are useful in age-related businesses -- remember to scroll down past text in a few cases:

Tablets and smartphones, too hard to learn, too hard to use, not just for seniors

An inquiry about an iPad opens the door – to a maze of twisty passages, all alike.  We like to bring our iPad when we visit my 90-year-old mother-in-law. We walk her out of her memory care unit to a quiet living room and my husband shows his mother beautiful images of kittens and cats. As we passed the 40-something concierge at the front desk, she asked us about whether she should get an iPad.  This woman does not own a smart phone and has no Internet service in her house -- and apparently no friends to guide her in this process. If you were asked this question and had just a bit more information about her situation, what would you say?

Study reveals most Gen Xers and boomers want to age at home but 95% fear today’s technology is not up to the task

11/06/2013

Philips and Georgetown’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative Examine Barriers to Technology’s Ability to Improve Quality of Life for Aging Population

Philips and the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business released a survey today that found both baby boomers and Generation X (Gen X) place high value on technology as they age. However, 95 percent believe today’s technology needs to be better developed to help them successfully age at home, or age in place, for as long as possible.

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