Can business save the generation that tech forgot?

As older adults increasingly feel isolated by advances in technology, businesses must ensure they are not left behind.
18 January 2019

Tech shouldn’t isolate the older generation. Source: Shutterstock

The holiday season is already a distant memory. But many will still be reflecting on how family time has changed in a digital age. Grandparents might have looked at three generations of family members staring down at screens and felt, somewhat, out of the loop.

There is a misconception that older people struggle with technology. The reality is that most businesses are leaving them behind. While many companies market their services to target the digitally-obsessed, they are often isolating an entire generation from using the technology that now rules our lives.

For example, online-only services are unavailable to those without the luxury of broadband or smartphone at their disposal. For most people reading this, internet banking is something that makes online payments, like settling bills, incredibly easy.

But, what about those who don’t have the services that so many take for granted?

While technology is transforming businesses and customer experiences at breakneck speed, there is an argument that many older users are being put at a disadvantage. In many cases, they are begrudgingly accepting that they will have to pay more for goods and services, but receive less than the younger cash-rich and time-poor generations.

The success of any digital transformation should be determined by ensuring everyone comes along for the ride, and nobody gets left behind or forgotten. As the digital generation gap begins to widen, there is much more work that needs to be done to ensure older generations embrace technology required to make their lives as easy as possible.

Contrary to popular belief, many older adults are eager to adopt new technology and are willing to learn. Much of the apprehension exists around the lack of clarity in how to get started, confusing instructions and lacking support. Maybe it’s time for businesses to cast their net beyond the digitally obsessed.

By 2050, older people will outnumber the young for the first time. It is also estimated that there will be over one billion people over the age of 60 by 2025. In our aging population, the proportion of older citizens is increasing rather than decreasing. But this should be an opportunity for businesses to find new ways to make life easier and comfortable as we age by leveraging technology.

Ironically, emerging technologies are much more suited to users who genuinely need assistance. The rise of digital assistants and voice search, combined with home automation solutions, can be invaluable to both older and disabled people.

Many of us are guilty of finding it cool to turn on our lights, heating and home appliances using our voice. But how many have thought about how it could be a game-changer for those with visual impairment and mobility issues?

Scott Lien observed that older people were beginning to feel left out as their children and grandchildren increasingly lived more of their lives online. But he decided to do something about it and developed a tablet specifically for seniors who have no experience using technology, called GrandPad.

The device is aimed at bringing senior users back into the heart of the family, allowing them to share photographs, call, and text without the learning curve. A team of senior testers from over 75 up to 114 proved how a device that is specifically designed for them can make a huge difference.

Elsewhere, ElliQ by Intuition Robotics offers a robot designed with the elderly in mind. AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning help the robot get to know the personality and preferences of the user. It can encourage more movement by suggesting going for a walk, and can also take away boredom by playing games or even calling family members.

Behind the scenes, sophisticated technologies can help with daily routines, providing reminders to take medication or upcoming medical appointments. These are just a few solutions that are using technology as a gateway instead of a barrier to empower seniors and even offer a little companionship too.

The aging process is unavoidable and something that we will all have to face sooner than we might realize. But, will your business dare to buck the trend and explore how technology can enhance the lives of your more senior customers?

We are living in a fast-paced digital world that is littered with shiny tech gadgets that promise to make our lives easier. We have the luxury of knowing that older people will outnumber the young in our immediate future. The problem is that nobody seems to care.

Maybe it’s time to change the narrative and think about how technology could help those that need it most and ensure that nobody gets left behind.