Reports indicate that seniors are more connected digitally than ever before, and technology developers should consider designing software and devices that help older demographics connect, learn, and lead healthier lives.
In the past year, 51 per cent of older Americans (age 50-plus) purchased a tech product such as a smartphone, tablet, computer or laptop, smart home product or wearable device, according to a survey by AARP (2020).
However, the survey found that the older adults lack the tech know-how to utilize the full potential of features available to them with these devices.
Technology and the Needs of an Aging Population
A recent study by the U.S. Government (2019) estimates that the number of people in America aged 65 or older will comprise nearly a quarter of the country’s population by the year 2060. Canada’s senior population is expected to grow by 68 per cent to 10.4 M by the year 2037.
Seniors are expected to depend more upon tech that allows them to maintain their independence in the areas of performing daily tasks, monitor changes in their cognition, communicate, stay mobile and interact with their communities, assist them in operating a vehicle, and access healthcare services.
As more and more seniors get older, the number of caregivers available to provide services may not be able to keep up. That’s why it is important that technological understanding and proficiency of older adults is crucial to assist in providing potentially life-saving services and monitoring.
Assistive smart home and device technology can help facilitate Activities of the Daily Living (ADLs), which include eating, bathing, and dressing. Smart showers, self-care monitoring to caregivers, smart oral devices that measure times between teeth brushing, smart textiles to detect wounds, and automated food preparation systems are examples of where research and development in these areas might assist with functioning needs.
In this time of quarantine due to COVID-19, limited access to social institutions accessed through technological connectivity can exacerbate seniors’ loneliness.
Some issues affecting tech adoption among seniors include cost factors and relearning of operations. Tech developers must consider training options and usage tips as a method to make their digital creations available and accessible for the older user.
Seniors want to go digital
Pew Research’s study (2017) found that smartphone adoption among seniors quadrupled between 2012 and 2017. The study found that older Americans tend to view technology as a benefit to society, though roughly half of seniors stated they needed another person to assist them in setting up a new electronic device.
Technology must be user friendly and quick to learn. Universal design is therefore critical for older adults who may be impacted by factors such as vision, hearing, or memory loss or psychosocial factors. Research must be conducted to provide standards of usability and optimal accessibility to help support older adults become more proficient, even in circumstances when the user’s faculties may be diminishing.