Why tech firms can’t ignore seniors–Dennis Lally

From Fortune Insiders

When it comes to technology, the mass market for the most part ignores senior citizens. This is a mistake. Despite the common misconception, today’s senior citizens have a greater familiarity with technology and own more devices than ever before.

With over 46 million people aged 65 or older in the U.S. as of 2014, seniors comprise nearly 15% of the total population. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, as of 2013, 59% of seniors reported using the Internet, while 47% had broadband access in their homes. And the senior technology market is expected to exceed $42 billion by 2020.

Despite this rapidly growing and untapped market opportunity, building technology products for older adults isn’t easy. Companies face design and monetization challenges. But if they can overcome these obstacles and start targeting tech products and services to seniors, it will be worth the effort.

One size doesn’t fit all

A significant challenge is the “design-for-all” school of thought, which suggests that technologies and environments should avoid any specialized modifications. This can make devices more difficult to use for older adults, who have fundamentally different needs than their younger counterparts. Some of the basic design features seniors often require include larger fonts, increased color contrast, and louder audio or subtitles.

However, younger designers often have their own expectations of how seniors should think or act, and don’t truly understand their needs. As a result, new tech products often fail to catch on with seniors. While it’s relatively easy to build a new dating or social messaging app and test it with younger users, the feedback process is a lot longer with older adults. As an AARP study points out, seniors are willing to try new technologies; however, there remains a threshold to get the hardware into their hands. Without a large user base, it’s extremely difficult to get necessary feedback on products and improve technology for the elderly.

Read the full post at Fortune Insiders

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