Each year, more and more seniors embrace new technology. Electronic devices like smartphones are among the favorites for the over-50 set. After all, they grew up on electronics, having watched phones shed their cords and become smarter than the computers of even just 10 years ago.
Is there one thing that older adults want from their technology? One thing that is fairly common across the board? Simplicity of use, or, as they say in the industry, “user experience.”
In 2009, the AARP and Microsoft sponsored a research project, gathering 60 people at a time for dinner and extended discussion about their thoughts and attitudes about technology. The participants in the study were between 50 and 60 years old, and the sessions were held in four U.S. cities — San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago, and New York.
Here’s a link to the full report, “Boomers and Technology: An Extended Conversation” (PDF), and the pertinent quote from its pages:
Boomers blame manufacturers for creating unnecessary complexity; according to research, ‘Too many features’ is the primary reason for frustration among 57 percent of boomers.
‘My little digital camera, which fits in my pocket, came with an instruction manual that was bigger than the one that came with my Subaru.” There was agreement in Phoenix: ‘If every piece of technology came with one page of instructions that assumed you could read English and follow directions, that would be very good. If you can’t explain it in one page, then you need to make it simpler.’ [...]
The group made it clear that there are two aspects to ease of use. The first is learning how a device operates. The second is fixing it when something goes wrong. And boomers know from experience that something will go wrong. Often they take it in stride: ‘I love my GPS, although every once in a while it’s really, really wrong. But I wouldn’t get rid of it. When it’s wrong, I just think it’s like driving with a spacey friend. ‘Turn here!’ Where’s here?’
The continued rise in smartphone use by older adults would seem to support this. Apps make it a lot easier to use social media platforms by simplifying and streamlining the interface. As time goes by and boomer spending has more influence on the market, you can see their desires made manifest. The advent of computers for seniors that boast both simplicity of setup and operation is a great example of this.
Past studies have shown that as people reach 60, adoption of technology declines drastically. Not so with the boomers. That’s a generation that was raised with technology: Most of them were somewhere between their teens and their early 30s when the first desktop computers debuted. This comfort level with technology, combined with the fact that they generally have more discretionary income than the younger generation, ensures that their desires will influence the shape of coming technology — more so every year as waves of boomers reach retirement age.