During my years of working with older adults, I never gave much thought to their views and feelings about technology. There was always something more urgent to tend to. But ever since I started working at Intuition Robotics, I’ve researched the topic thoroughly, and came to one conclusion: older adults want to use technology.
This may come as a surprise to people who only have their own grandparents to look at when they try to imagine how older adults interact with technology, and that’s one of the reasons that, until recent years, we haven’t seen too many startups and tech- companies targeting that age group (which is quite heterogeneous, considering there can be a 30 year age gap between the youngest old to the oldest old).
You could say, that gerontechnology is taking it’s first baby steps in the world of older adults. How can I be so confident when I say older adults do want technology?
For the purpose of this post, I’m going to divide the older adults demographic to the usual brackets of 65-74 (young old), 75-84 (middle old) and 85+ (oldest old). This doesn’t mean all 70 year olds are alike, those are just age brackets that gerontologists like to use when they want to divide the older adult population.
First of all, today’s boomers (10,000 of them retire each day in the US) spent most of their adult years around technology. It may seem like ancient history, but PCs have become ubiquitous in workplaces during the 80’s, and in households during the 90’s. Broadband internet has been available for 20 years. Who do you think bought today’s Silicone Vally executives their first PCs?
That’s right, their boomer parents! If you pick out a random 65 year old in the streets of SF, and ask them which mobile phone they’re using, it’s quite likely they’ll show you a smartphone and tell you how much they love checking their email and Facebook. If you come to their house, they might show off their brand new smart speaker they got in a bundle with their kids, in order to communicate better or just play some music since the CD player broke.
As for those who are 75-84, those we like to call “middle-old”. It’s true that most of them were close to retirement when the internet was at its early years, and perhaps they didn’t have to learn how to use a computer to keep doing whatever it was they were doing to earn a living.