/ September 2, 2008

High Tech Industries Target Aging Baby Boomers

Who says you can’t stay tech savvy as you age? While older folks get a bad rap for their lack of technological know-how, companies are starting to tap into the needs of the Baby Boomers, a huge market for streamlined, easy to use devices and programs. Producers are hoping to take advantage of the generation’s desire to age gracefully, creating cell phones with larger type, more intuitive computers and MP3 players, and gadgets that can assist older boomers with less mobility. Joseph Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab explains that the boomers are simultaneously looking “for technology to stay independent, engaged, well and vital,” as well as a place to spend their money once the kids move out.

The Baby Boomers, having pioneered an American tradition of youthful rebellion and social revolution, will probably have a hard time leaving their glory days behind, and the tech industry is ready to step in to help them stay relevant and tuned in to current trends. Apple products have done well with older generations; simplicity of design and programming seem to appeal the Boomers. Other devices, while nicely styled and still appealing to the young, are adding features that can help consumers adapt as they age. Some cars now include extra large door handles, as well as a plethora of accident prevention technologies, which have cross-generational allure but can particularly rope in the elderly.

Another product with great Boomer potential is the cell phone. The cell phone has practically become a necessity in modern America, and Baby Boomers have generally embraced the technology. But, as phones continue to get smaller and more intricate, aging Americans will have a more difficult time using them. Samsung’s Jitterbug cell phone hopes to alleviate this potential problem. The Jitterbug is a small fliphone, but includes large buttons and the ability to speak numbers to an operator, without having to type. Other phones are upping the volume and the voice quality for those who are hard of hearing.

And of course, there are some goofy gadgets aimed just at seniors to assist with everyday tasks, including the automatic pill dispenser, and the household “robots” which can vacuum or clean out the gutter. But after the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” commercials of the 1990s, these contraptions can hardly be surprising. We are sure to see many more ingenious, and somewhat harebrained, devices targeting the elderly in the coming decades.

Source: The New York Times

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