Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Five Prognostications about Great Tech for Older Adults

Here are five prognostications about great tech for older adult usage.
  1. Content anywhere/everywhere;
  2. Few early adopters amongst the Boomer+ set;
  3. Tablets are here to stay as the fourth screen; 
  4. He who builds the product that needs the least support will win. 
  5. Older adults are vital, active, regular people (most of the time.)
Read on for the details.

Content Anywhere and Everywhere. Yes, even older adults are getting used to anywhere and everywhere content. We know from Pew and the Annenberg information that 65+ crowd is slower at adopting tech, but for those that have, they are becoming used to content everywhere and anywhere they want. This is certainly true for the future. Many of today’s frailty products are geared toward the frail user in one place and the concerned family member in another. My 89-year-old friend, Bob, just got an Android smart phone because he thought he needed one to understand all the hoopla. He has discovered, though, that he still hates texting.

Older Adults are not Early Adopters. Most older adults are not early adopters. I like to think that is because we are more experienced and know that there are risks: price and performance are not “features” of early adoption - things that "go-boom" and don't work are. We all know that if we wait just a bit, we’ll see massive price reductions on the devices (unless they are from Apple.) Look at the price of flat screen TVs today compared to 5 years ago. HP’s very brief foray into the tablet business underscores another early adoption risk: that the company will abandon the product and you’ll be stuck with no support, no software. Cisco did the same thing by abandoning the Flip video camera. And, anyone who has purchased Apple or Microsoft software products early in their lifespan knows, that bugs exist. It reminds me of advice regarding prescription medication: wait until the drug has been out for 7 years before adding it to your regimen. If we change that to “tech years”, it means wait for 3-6 months to find out if there are any serious bugs (remember the iPhone 4 debacle where you had to hold the phone a certain way to allow it to work?)

Four Screens: TV, PC, Tablets, Smart Phones For many years, the geek and entertainment industry have been referring to three screens in the home that encompass the TV, computer/Internet and mobile phone. Now, they’ve added a fourth screen; the tablet.  Most would function just fine with the modified functionality of a tablet.  Tablets are transformational especially the touchscreen and the 5-minute-learning-curve. Tablets have apps that are cheaper than most PC and Mac software and keep you from having to type your password a million times. To me, the awesome battery life of many of the tablets is another core feature. You can watch a movie on a long plane ride and still check your email upon landing. With occasional use during the day, you can go a few days without tethering to power. These devices give you the ability to “lean back” and utilize the content as you would a traditional book or newspaper: cookbook in the kitchen, HBO in the bedroom, remote control in the family room, note taking at meetings, picture book for family and friends, etc.
The TV is still the dominant screen in many households (certainly older adult households) and, in most households, there are more TVs that people. Imagine where the tablet will fit into these homes.  Will this be the way to get tech into resistant older adult hands?

Build it and they will come.  it was really clear that older adults want simple, easy-to-manage technology solutions in their home. Many seniors have computers in the home (although many times they are outdated hand-me-downs from adult children) and a fair number have smart phones. But the questions from seniors tend to “how do I do X? This is validated in an informal survey we are did in San Diego where older adults say that technical support is one of the biggest issues for them (and probably why they are reluctant to add more gadgets into their repertoire.)

Older adults are vital, active, regular people (most of the time.) When I meet with aspiring I-have-the-best-product-EVER-for-seniors business folks, I am always amused to see that these products are meant for the frail, isolated elderly with a zillion health issues. I say, WAKE UP! The frail elderly are hard to sell to and die, so you need to have a very low customer acquisition cost. (I could share some stories about customers dying in the 30 day money-back-guarantee period.)

If you want success in a boomer/senior product do this: Make it easy to use. Make it hard to break. And, make sure you have nice, quality technical support if it does. And, if you are starting from scratch, look at tablets and TVs as the two dominant screens in the older adult household.