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AARP 2024 Tech Survey: Change Continues to Outpace Older Adults

The 2024 survey is out – some might say it is positive about tech adoption. Older adults (age 50+) own nearly every tech owned by those age 18-49. They have smartphones, tablets, Smart TVs, wearables – with the same disinterest in smart home technologies. The cynical among us might say that some tech change (like the 3G to 5G cutover) forced smartphone adoption.  And so the growth in smartphone ownership is led by older adults And it’s pretty tough to buy a ‘dumb TV’ these days even if you wanted one, though it’s feasible.  

 

Growth is not the same as adoption.  Tablets, smartphones, and smart TVs are the only tech offerings with greater than 50% adoption among older adults (ages grouped into 50-59, 60-69 and 70+ age bands.)  Wearables, smart home tech, and home assistants (assume that means voice offerings) have not crossed the halfway mark in uptake. For those with smartphones and wearables, daily use is prevalent. But that does not mean that their experience is a happy one…

Ownership does not imply comfort level. Smart home technology (still after 5 years of survey questions) still does not appeal – only a third have any and most of the rest are aware but not interested. Has someone written the report "The Best Smart Home Offerings for Solo Agers"?  Not yet.  New worries about tech in the home have emerged over the past few years – especially notable -- new concerns about personal data and privacy.

 Discussions of AI make older adults skeptical. And despite the fact that AI's machine learning and  predictive analytics, and the likelihood that generative AI capabilities are increasingly embedded in nearly all newer software product versions (for example, see AI in search or healthcare), older adults seem uncertain as to how AI will impact them. This is a media-fueled concern that will diminish as awareness grows. And of course, we do not need to know that our interactions are AI-enabled to benefit. One day, just as with voice technology, the newer capabilities will simply be there (for good or for ill).  

Will someone please just show me? The comments about tech design and usability are bleakly similar to previous surveys –survey responders complain that tech is not designed with older adults in mind.  Comments include: "Too complicated, too many steps to set up devices, tech seems have been created for younger people, not user friendly, complicated processes for accessing websites, terms are not defined, jargon and symbols can be confusing, too many assumptions, users must teach themselves about platform changes." Who can argue? And so the still-unfilled need for adequate training and ongoing instruction continues.

[See latest report, AI and the Future of Care Work 2023]

Comments

It seems the same story has been true since 1999. Whatever the current batch of “emerging tech” happens to be, we still report that it’s value proposition is lost on the senior market. Every few years we see a similar article. Now Laurie Orlov and many of us have AI and smart home tech in the crosshairs. Same as it ever was

As an 81-year old entrepreneur, I've become a "Wow Market" contrarian rather than skeptic.  In the case at hand, there's no doubt that new technology is the best hope for affordable care as low-moderate income seniors age.  But when your hammer is Healthcare, then every senior looks like a "patient" so your nail is Aging-In-Place, a term no senior is fond of.  Most seniors instead value Independent Living. I may be a patient more often now, but a patient is NOT WHO I AM.  This same unfortunate healthcare mindset sees adopting rather than embracing as the goal.  Not good enough in my book.  So I'm starting a new venture to "seed" seniors with an affordable technology they love, that provides convenience and peace of mind, AND as we cultivate and develop their healthcare interests, they can seamlessly add on health safety devices, and even 24/7 monitoring.  The industry shouldn't settle for the "easy" sell after a precipitating event, when the competition is fierce, and the subscriptions are shorter.  There IS  technology seniors have embraced, that can lead to greater and more enjoyable longevity, even for low-moderate income seniors. 

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