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Tech design -- we're getting older, but is it getting better?

The best consumer tech is barely out-of-the-box usable – for anyone.  iPad, Schmipad. Although there is always a story here or there about one who loves the device and wants to teach others (60 days of classes!!!), apps like Family Ribbon to make it easier to use continue to pop up along with training both in store and beyond. So in the face of so much enthusiasm, it is hard for me to say this, but guess what? If you aren’t born imagining that 4 fingers would reveal the already created task row of previously used apps, that menus disappear, that the style of user interface for various apps is inconsistent, that screen-to-screen navigation varies from touching a tiny dot at the screen base to swiping a swoop to the next page, 60 days of training sounds like a pretty good idea. And as far as user interface design, this is the best of the best and it is not acceptable!

Robots are a distraction from the technology needs of seniors.  Gimme a break. If I read one more robot story about the caregiving potential of robots, I might scream.  Let’s be clear – senior housing organizations are barely comfortable with Skype, home care organizations are not ready to standardize their processes enough to broadly adopt any technology, and so what can we say about robots?  Well, they make good video subjects -- that’s for sure. But no, there will be no broad-based adoption of robots in senior housing any time soon -- until the price plummets and the use case is so clear that no self-respecting Executive Director would attend a conference without a demonstration video, that the exhibit halls would incorporate multiple price point and styles of robots, okay then, no problem. In the meantime, back to the first point – when will the senior housing organizations and social service advocates convene the right meetings to get better and more usable technology that could serve the needs of the millions of prospective users in and outside of senior housing?

And speaking of home care – the village model is not a viable tech market.  I am sure that reading this article about the lack of financial sustainability in the 'village' movement/model, senior housing organizations must have breathed a sigh of relief.  To date, "financial sustainability for the model is apt to be a challenge unless Villages secure more stable sources of funding." So to you vendors mulling this as a prospective customer base for technology purchases, my recommendation is to run away – come back once the financial bugs have been worked out and the village can be approached as a unified buying entity, not as the buying profile of a yard sale.


Besides Laurie, Robots are just another potential Fomite (http://tiny.cc/focxjw)...
Just to make you scream, I wrote about them a while back:
The Future Face of Aging in Place: http://tiny.cc/94cxjw

You're right, there use for Aging in Place remains (for practical purposes) science fiction...for now.

Best, Patrick

BTW: I will be the first Boomer in line to get the first edition Rosie when "she" gets to economies of scale: See Rosie: http://www.jeffbots.com/rosie.html

Is all this robot talk a function of the new movie Frank and the robot?

Although a Slate article about the movie was the trigger for my comments, there have been many articles over the past few years -- there are 36 previous links here under the taxonomy term Robotics.



I followed your "it is not acceptable" to Scott Sterling's article, "Get old, tune out: Is technology leaving the elderly in the dust?" in which he discusses problems older people have keeping up with current technology, and mentions the (poverty) digital divide.

But some of the comments following the article were extremely discouraging to those of us who believe that design should be for all customers, not just a limited segment of the population:

  • "But ask them to delete their cookies or transfer a photo from their iPhones onto the iPad?...Sometimes I feel it's just more laziness than it is an inability to pick things up with them."
  • "My 4 yrs old niece knows how to use iPad and iPhone...and my parents are clueless lmao"
  • "'Tune out' is a choice...It's seniors' decisions to learn or not learn."
  • "What, are we suppose to halt progress?"

To me, such remarks indicate short-sighted, self-centered, and somewhat mean-spirited attitudes. Or maybe just a lack of information. People are living longer; as they live longer, they are more likely to experience decreases in their visual, cognitive, audio, and sensory-motor abilities. Couple this with older people likely to be digital non-natives, to not have tech experts to help them 24/7, and to perhaps have limited finances and/or broadband access. And most designs these days are not tested on an older population. Seems to be a recipe for a difficult usability scenario.

Maybe in 40 years, today's 20- and 30-somethings will feel left out, disenfranchised, and useless. They themselves might be viewed as "clueless," "lazy," and "tuned out." Unless we have at last learned to design with our users' characteristics in mind.