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Older adults and technology – the latest news they cannot use

What problem is being solved? Consider the solution to slightly thorny and REALLY thorny problems. Do you wonder about the thought process that produces them – isolated in a conference room bubble, what are the thinkers considering before these announcements?   Must a misfire (or multiple misfires) precede the right solution? And shouldn't the solutions be of a scale (large or small) that fits or sounds like it fits the problem?

  • Tapping an email answer on a smartphone. It’s tough – but the fix is worse. Let's reflect on autocorrect. It has long caused suffering, hilarity or for the determined and watchful, may be a useful feature.  So the obvious next step? The latest Gmail app reads your mail message and then offers up a Smart Reply for your approval because we are too lazy or clumsy to tap it out ourselves.  This of course, generated instructions on how to turn this bizarre and creepy feature off. Why? Because it was set to ON by Google as the default.  The assumption by Google is that you would WANT this feature – and certainly for those simultaneously emailing and driving, that makes sense.   
  • Maybe IBM’s Watson is not elementary enough.  IBM has a strategy to tackle the problem of loneliness among older adults, so here goes:  "By leveraging a cognitive or cloud platform --including natural language, visual recognition, data integration, artificial intelligence and more -- any number of entities such as cities, agencies, hospital networks, telecommunication vendors, and others can quickly build cost-effective, community-based solutions that are personalized and adaptable to meet the needs of an aging individual." Well, that sounds like innovation, but can it help seniors or IBM itself? This once-great company has had declining revenue for a long time -- trying to shake off this malaise, it is forcing its remote-working workforce back into its buildings or quit, likely resulting in a large number of its older employees quitting, perhaps the intent. And Watson Health may be the way to stem the firm's decline. 
  • Passwords frustrate and are not secure – and not protective.  AARP Public Policy recently published a survey about how the 50+ population views Internet Privacy. Responders included 515 adults who were aged 65+. Seventy-three percent of them reported keeping their passwords on a piece of paper. While a smaller percentage of younger adults did not store passwords on paper, 56% of all respondents reported using the same password for multiple accounts. The report naturally concluded that "the current password regime is not working well and likely puts the privacy and security of internet users’ information at risk." Duh. In fact, one reason passwords are written down is because IT policy in many organizations mandates changing the password every 60-90 days, not necessarily a good idea. And that is the basis for people writing them down, stuffing them into wallets and purses, nd tacking them onto bulletin boards. As the latest laundry list of hacks and break-ins attests, passwords are a hassle which doesn't help make data more secure.