Why doesn’t Warren Buffett use a smartphone? Because he’s “out of touch.” His words. Not mine. But why are people even asking this question? Because Warren Buffett owns a large chunk of Apple. And Apple is best known for its iPhone. Even when the CEO of Apple asked Buffett if he wanted one of the famed iPhones, Buffet said “Nope!” Buffett isn’t alone among his generational peers. The early Baby Boomers and late Silent Generation are having a hard time keeping up with technology despite its relative ease of use.
Why is this? Why are flip-phones so much more comfortable than widgets? Let’s take a look.
1. It’s a Global Phenomenon
You would think that maybe our country was somehow “behind” technologically to countries like Japan. But the seniors in our country aren’t unique. In fact, an initiative in the Asia-Pacific region, Project Silverline, is attempting to connect seniors with used smartphones.
The tech industry is struggling to convince seniors in the region to adopt the not so nascent tech. Why do they care? Because the entire industry earned three trillion dollars this last year and it just keeps growing.
But some investors are skeptical that we will ever see the elderly adopt smartphone and tablet technology. But what they don’t realize is that their marketing the tech all wrong.
They’re attempting to create tech that marks a senior as “old.” Easy to use card systems, old-looking phones, etc. Instead, they should be figuring out ways to make seniors feel young again through technology.
They need to plug into actual desires and wants rather than making stereotypical assumptions.
2. Seniors Don’t Feel Safe
We’ve all gotten used to the idea that our information just isn’t private anymore. At least most of our information.
The only thing anyone could know about you fifty years ago was your address and phone number. You had to specifically meet people and tell them about your life. Yes, gossip happened, but that was just gossip.
Now, your entire life is on the cloud. Everything from your habits to your banking information in online somewhere stored in some server. We hear constantly about stolen data on the news.
Why would you feel safe? It’s not safe out there.
And when you don’t fully understand how a technology works, you feel even less safe when you use it.
Last time I was at my grandma’s house, she was trying to show me photos of family on her iPad. As she swiped through her apps, she got a notification that her OS was out of date. You could see the hesitation and fear in her eyes.
She told me that she didn’t understand the agreement they were trying to get her to sign. I tried to explain that the update would make her safer. She didn’t believe me.
Instead, she dismissed the notification and kept searching for her email app.
If it weren’t for her desire to keep up with family through e-mail, my grandmother would not own an iPad (a gift from my mother). It’s a scary device to her, too easy to mess up and too layered to use.
Coming Late to the Party
Many of us have had time to adapt to the ever complicated ecosystem of mobile technology. As companies pushed to add more and more functionality to phones, consumers adapted.
But a market remained for flip-phones and easier modes of communication. Thus a whole generation refused to move forward with technology, choosing instead the easier and available route of sticking with flip-phones.
Now that it’s becoming difficult to communicate without a smart device, many seniors are entering the market late. This makes the learning curve for seniors steeper than if they had gradually adopted the technology like the rest of us.
But seniors don’t want devices marketed as “simple and easy to use.” They want to be like the rest of us.
3. What is the Solution?
The market already created a solution. Its becoming prevalent little by little. And that’s technology you control with your voice.
Seniors don’t need devices specifically designed for them because technology is already moving toward simplicity. While we saw an uptick in feature cramming over the last ten years, voice technologies and smart home devices are reversing this trend.
Now, if you have the resources to convert your home, you can control nearly every aspect of your house with merely your voice. Since companies like Nest and Amazon have joined forces, you can do anything from turning on your lights to setting your security alarm all from the comfort of your recliner.
Seniors will be safer in a smart home. When I was a kid, commercials marketed an emergency device to seniors. The phrase “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” is cemented in my brain.
Now seniors won’t need to wear some cheap bit of plastic but be able to call 911 or a relative even if they’ve fallen. Smart sensors in the home will soon be able to monitor a person’s movements and alert a family member if someone has fallen.
For all of us, independence is a major concern. We all want to be able to make our own decisions in relative safety. This doesn’t change in later life. Smart technologies will allow seniors more autonomy in their own home and allow them to live on their own longer.
Should We Market to Seniors Differently?
Technological change is happening so rapidly today that it’s hard to keep up even if you are in “the know.” But seniors aren’t different than the rest of the population in their desire for ease and autonomy.
If you’re one of those companies marketing to seniors, stop trying so hard. The technology is already accessible. All you have to do is point the way.
What do you think? Should tech marketers treat seniors differently? Weigh in below.