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April 2021

AARP 2021 Tech Trends Survey -- is the tech glass half empty?

First the ‘good news’ about tech adoption…  According to AARP’s newest technology adoption report, just published, older adults are positive about the role technology can play in their lives during and after Covid-19. They are chatting via video, using social media livestreams and modernizing their technology. They are buying smart TVs, costly smartphones, and earbuds.  The survey reports that 20% of the 70+ age range owns a wearable, possibly a smartwatch. Also notable, considering that most wearables are still paired with them, smartphone ownership, according to this survey, has risen most sharply among those aged 70+, with 77% of responders indicating they own one. This is a number worth questioning, however, since Pew Research's most recent mobile fact sheet indicates that only 61% of the 65+ have smartphones.

For older adults, the future of wearables is predictive

Wearable devices make up an $81.5 billion global market in 2021. According to Gartner’s January 2021 forecast, this was driven by increased consumer interest in tracking their health status during the pandemic (smart watches) and the growth of remote work (purchases and upgrades to headphones and ear-warn devices). According to one insider, 3-5 million Apple watches alone have been purchased by adults age 65+. And AARP’s newest technology adoption report, just published, notes that 20% of the 70+ age range own a wearable.  Also notable, considering that most wearables are still paired with them, smartphone ownership has risen most sharply among the 70+, with 77% of survey responders indicating they own one.

PEW: 25% of seniors age 65+ are not online. That's a problem.

Pew Research just published its periodic survey about Internet use. Let’s assume consensus that growing the percentage of those using the Internet was a social good. Let’s assume that many are now concerned that older adults may have missed vaccine sign-up opportunities without access to the Internet.  Pew’s survey categories included: Age, Rural/Urban, Male-Female, Income, Race, and Education.  The result is pretty much ho-hum – if you look only at the headline – 7% of Americans Don’t use the Internet.  Let’s say that 77% of the American population are adults (using Census data). Translating the Pew number to non-users of the Internet  results in nearly 23 million people.  Not a trivial number.  Too bad there were no correlations between Age, Education, Income with Internet use.  But we can guess what we could find.

Why should people trust technology? 

Do consumers trust technology?  Not so much -- just ask them. This question was asked on a recent Edelman Trust Barometer, responder age was capped at 64.  And the survey showed that the largest drop in trust for a category from 2020-2021 was in technology (summarized here in a single graph) – for some, not trusted. What categories were the most trusted?  Food and beverage, healthcare, transportation, education and consumer packaged goods.  What’s this mean?  According to Edelman: “The tech industry is now being held to account for all manner of societal ills -- from information bankruptcy to job loss, to human rights, to the mass-class divide.

Four Aging and Health Technology Blog Posts from March 2021

March was an unusually innovative age tech month – now let’s get organized.  What did it all mean? Here’s a thought about this market, where the beneficiary of an innovation is an older adult, and the innovation could improve quality of life. A federal agency (or other national entity) could help individuals and organizations find a product that is needed with a product/service registry.  A government agency could start a registry of these products/services – this one with staying power. You might remember AbleData – a product registry of 40,000 mobility aids and assistive technologies. It was conceived in 1982 and  rolled into the responsibility of a federal agency in 1984, now part of the Administration for Community Living.  What happened? Its useful website lasted more than 35 years. Then in 2020 it was abruptly shut down – with no further explanation - a caution for the next age tech registry. Here are the four blog posts from March 2020:

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