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Consider ever-changing tech hurdles for older adults

The more technology changes, it’s a step back for some.  You probably think the inevitability of tech change is mostly positive. And in a macro sense, maybe it is. But for some older adults, it’s one negative experience after another. The closing of thousands of bank branches in favor of online banking, the elimination of paper social security statements, the near-elimination of paper savings bonds for the grandchildren, and the ubiquitous introduction of the QR code in restaurants – saving labor.

The airport Chili’s restaurant paper menus were removed before Thanksgiving.  A small army of elderly (post baby-boomer) people arrived before their holiday flight at a Florida airport to have a sit-down breakfast. But the menus, as at other locations, had been removed in favor of a QR-coded menu for ordering – a Covid-19 ‘innovation’ that stuck. One of the staffers sighed as she described having to explain the menu anyway to those uncomfortable with using their smart phones for this purpose. And after complaining to the company, they realized having at least one paper menu for guests to look at might minimize server workload – which was the whole point in the first place. 

But everyone will soon have a smartphone, won’t they? If you believe the AARP statistic, it is likely that more than 62% of those aged 70+ have a smartphone.  Ah, but are they trained (especially the oldest), comfortable and proficient with using it?  Did the last iPhone upgrade, which added “contact posters, NameDrop, StandBy, Live Voicemail, FaceTime video voicemail, a whole new Siri voice recognition model, huge improvements to autocorrect and dictation” improve their user experience? Were they searching for those features? And did someone tell them that interaction using the phone camera and a QR code was the only way to order in some restaurants?  Or that the Panera Bread kiosk may soon be the only way to order inside that restaurant. The busy staff is focused on drive-thru and pickup orders.

Relax, you’re a baby boomer – you are proficient and can handle all of this tech change. Nope, you are not proficient enough. If you didn’t see the switch to QR code interactions coming, then you won’t see the next decade (and beyond) of changes either. You may not be ready for brain-computer interfaces; you may not know that the use of all of your self-identifying data, including your voice, will be scooped up by AI’s machine learning capabilities (including scammers) so that your online behavior is precisely predicted and ‘enhanced’ with appropriate suggestions, er, ads; or that an Apple Air Tag can be used by thieves to help them steal your car right out of your driveway. Didn’t think of that? Your aging family members weren’t ready for that Thanksgiving travel experience. They just wanted breakfast.

[See new report, AI and The Future of Care Work 2023]


If the human touch is replaced by technology, technology will be rejected, IT will never win there, especially during later life living. Mankind is made needing the real thing. 


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