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smartphones, cell phones

Five tech and aging blog posts from October 2019

October was a long and extravagant month for the tech market.  Between trade events, including the Connected Health Conference in Boston, LeadingAge in San Diego, HLTH in Las Vegas, the Aging 2.0 Revolutionize Conference in Boston which was highlighted by the reveal of Venture Capital investor Dominic Endicott's $2 Trillion Age-Tech market size, making the Consumer Technology Association's $29 Billion look cautious. No doubt there were also many smaller events throughout the country. Here are the October blog posts:

A new smartphone – life is too short to keep up with such ‘innovation’

How much time do we spend setting up our ‘smart’ phones?  Every few years, I change phones. In the past, Android-to-Android, I wasted at least a full day customizing all the ‘improved’ features the way they were on the previous phone, setting up home screens, eliminating bloatware, and downloading apps that did not properly convert.  This time, it took me most of 2 weekend days to set up an iPhone to join family photo sharing. The access to photos – that was one of the good parts. Otherwise, it was maddening and sent me out to forums again and again.  I learned about the also-constant bug-fix upgrades, email addresses masquerading as Apple IDs (don’t get me started) and other apparently arbitrary design decisions whined about online. And then there was the stylistic non-charm of repositioning jiggling apps icons.  But yay, now I see shared photos and learned how to stop auto-play of videos in Safari.

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New Technology and Services Disrupt Hearing Aid Ecosystem

Hearing aids should appeal to those with significant hearing loss.  It’s a given that hearing loss interferes with communication – which itself is a risk for social isolation – as well as fall risk and dementia.  Ironically, according to the recently published and comprehensive MarketTrak10 survey, the decision to wear them is so often delayed years – the delay resulting from excuses like “hear well enough; can’t afford; too expensive; no coverage.”  Given the associated risks and isolation from delay, it is surprising that until recently, the devices were well-matched with the excuses.  What’s changed to overcome all of these excuses?

Age bias permeates ads -- and technology design

Getty images show advertising’s ageist stereotypes.  A new report from AARP this week zeros in on something we all knew: Advertisers focus on the young – not unlike the tech firms who make products being advertised.  Despite the 50+ population representing one third of the US population, they only show up in 13% of advertising imagery. The AARP report authors analyzed the Getty images – and observed that even though 69% of people aged 65-73 own a smartphone, less the 5% of the images of technology included any older adults. The same held true for images of workers. While one third (53 million) of the labor force is 50+, only 13% showed them working – otherwise they were shown at home, with a partner or in a medical setting. And the kicker: 81% of the employees of advertising agencies are younger than 55 -- their ageism is well-documented.

Reinventing old age? Some MIT tech assertions are simplistic

MIT Technology Review’s "Old Age is Over" is thought provoking.  Or in the case of the technology section – "Old Age is Made Up," written by Joe Coughlin, head of the MIT Age Lab, the content is just plain provoking. We agree that old age is made up – but in this article, that assertion is underpinned with generalizations that are just, well, also made up. And it shows a lack of understanding about who benefits from technologies that exist in their current form, or that some of those have been upgraded well beyond his generalizations.  Consider:

Design for all – what we wanted and what we got

Here’s a test. Can you look at a list, for example, of technologies that vendor websites claim are aimed at older adults and their caregivers -- and substitute younger beneficiaries or health care recipients?  Do designers who develop applications, devices, and websites that appear to target older adults do that exercise of substitution as they proceed from concept to pilot to delivered offering? Was that what was meant in the concept ‘design for all’ in this prescient report ‘Connected Living for Social Aging’ sponsored by AARP in 2011?  Per the report’s definition of ‘Design for all’: User experiences that appeal to all age groups, persisting across versions and devices 

Tech adoption grows for older adults -- why?

In 2019, Tech adoption changes -- some.  It’s known as the Amazon effect. As brick-and-mortar based businesses dwindle in favor of online, access to smartphone and broadband are becoming the enablers of information flow to older adults.  Pew Research helps us understand who, what, and possibly why people buy and own technology. Non-users, particularly broadband, are thus on one side of the so-called digital divide.  The latest Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2019 report reveals a change in the role of smartphones, particularly as a sole device for connecting to the Internet – 37% of responders to this year’s survey go online primarily using a smartphone, with 58% of 18-29-year-olds saying they mostly go online that way, though that number dropped to 15% for the 65+.   

Ten Years – Technology for Older Adults – 2009-2019

Look back to remind us where we are.  Ten years ago, the tech product choices designed for older adults were few and rudimentary. The intent was simplification of the basics for the tech-reluctant – sending email, looking at information online.  As an analyst migrating from the IT industry, it was startling to see the limited capabilities of the offerings like Presto the Printing Mailbox (used, eBay), Celery (printing mailbox – gone), Mailbug (device to send-receive email – still on Amazon), and Big Screen Live (browser for seniors - gone).  According to an AARP Healthy@Home report from 2008, the only home tech device that had any level of awareness (91% of responders) was Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS).

Five Health and Aging Tech Posts from May 2019

What does it mean when offerings and consumers aren’t aligned?  For older consumers and their families, the technology market and senior housing industry are two cases in point.  Consider the slower-growing 8(8% occupied) senior housing industry – where in ten years, 81% of couples will not be able to afford the $60,000 average cost of assisted living (a number that does not reflect higher cost memory care). Or mull over the technology industry, which is releasing new versions of every category faster than you can Google them, filling voids like adding mouse for the iPad.  Why did it not have a mouse in the first place?  Oh, yes, and it is an accessibility feature.  Still no headphone jack on the phone.  Or creating a folding phone (without much testing) with a screen that breaks within days of announcement. Did anyone ask for a phone that folds?  So in that vein, here are five blog posts, mostly rants, from May, 2019:

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