In To Reach Seniors, Tech Start-Ups Must First Relate to Them, Paula Span discusses the need to create “silvertech” based on what seniors really want, need and are able to use, rather than what younger people devise without consulting them.
In my experience in nursing homes and rehabs, residents would appreciate devices that help them to be more independent. To be able to open and close the windows, adjust the thermostat, and bring the tray table within reach would be a boon for them as well as for the staff otherwise called to their rooms to assist.
Elders living at home would undoubtedly be pleased to have insurance cards with print large enough to read — not a tech device per se, but a more user-friendly interface with their insurance company. Other aspects of interfacing with corporations are important as well. Span reports that a debit card geared toward seniors found that they prefer to be routed to the appropriate customer service representative rather than to be directed to a website or app when problems arose.
Here’s an except from Paula Span’s article:
Daily, breathless announcements arrive in my inbox, heralding technology products for older adults.
A “revolutionary” gait-training robot. An emergency response device said to predict falls. A combination home phone and tablet system that “transforms how older seniors connect with and are cared for by their loved ones.”
Daily, too, I hear tales of technology failing in various ways to do what older people or their worried families expect. I hear about frail elders who remove their emergency pendants at bedtime, then fall in the dark when they walk to the bathroom and can’t summon help.
About a 90-year-old in Sacramento who stored his never-worn emergency pendant in his refrigerator. About a Cambridge, Mass., daughter who has tried four or five telephones — not cellphones or smartphones, but ordinary landlines — in an ongoing effort to find one simple enough for her 95-year-old mother to reliably dial her number and have a conversation.
Which scenario represents the likelier future for senior-oriented technology? It depends on whom you ask.