Contribution: Older people are not tech haters. We just don’t design for their needs

Older people are certainly less familiar with technology than the younger generations you grew up with. My parents are from the World War II generation, long before there was a personal computer, let alone the Internet. Trying to help my elderly mother with email is a challenge. But just because some may not know how to use TikTok, what is an immutable token or how to make WiFi work doesn’t mean they are tech-averse.

Of course, it is difficult for the elderly to adapt to new technology. However, the majority of seniors have a smartphone and often post on social media and video chat with their grandchildren.

Many digital health companies mistakenly assume that because some seniors struggle with new technology initially, they absolutely hate it. The problem is that digital health companies often fail to design products with older adults in mind.

With virtual health booming, a wave of innovation and new technology has made it possible for seniors to age at home. This explosion of consumer-focused digital health is fundamentally about turning healthcare delivery upside down – from a patient’s regular visit to the healthcare system to one where healthcare is in our back pockets 24/7 on our terms.

For older adults who are less physically mobile and may lack transportation and companionship, this idea is even more important. Technology can greatly benefit seniors, making it convenient and safe to connect with healthcare professionals and follow virtual health plans from the comfort of their homes. In fact, technology use among people age 50 and older has surged during the pandemic, according to an AARP report. Over the past decade, according to the Pew Research Center, older adults have increasingly adopted technology such as smartphones and tablets, and used social media. From a business point of view, older people make up a large part of the population, and spending on medical care of about $830 billion in 2020 will make up 20% of total national spending on health care.

The evolving definition of the term “elderly”

The definition of the word “old” was not what it used to be. The next generation of seniors will spend most of their middle years using the Internet, smartphones, tablets, and various software applications, putting them in a better position to navigate the next iteration of high-tech gadgets and devices. Soon there will be no generation unaccustomed to technology intertwining daily activities.

For better or worse, retirement isn’t as foolproof as it used to be, as more people continue to work after 65 – either because they have to, or they want to. According to a 2021 survey, nearly one in five older adults said they plan to work after the age of 70, and another 12% reported that they will work full time for the rest of their lives. A picture of an old man sitting in a rocking chair drinking lemonade all day isn’t accurate anymore, if it was before. For those working into their golden years, many will continue to use new and relevant technology regularly.

Older people use technology that benefits them

Trying to master the latest technology can be overwhelming and frustrating for seniors. But jumping to the conclusion that most elderly people have an aversion to technology is completely wrong.

Two years into the pandemic, older adults, like everyone else, have had to feel more comfortable with virtual health technologies. With fewer personal healthcare options combined with the risk of contracting COVID-19, older adults with chronic health conditions, mobility issues, or other healthcare needs are increasingly wanting to switch toward virtual health services and products so that they don’t They have to leave the home page. Aging at home is a trend that is expected to increase in the coming years, requiring digital health companies to target the aging population.

Digital health for seniors should be simple and frictionless

There is a need for digital health to improve the lives of the elderly, and the desire among the elderly to use technology is increasing. What we need is for digital health companies to rise to the moment by designing frictionless services and products. This means that the deceptive sensors are out. In fact, get rid of the devices completely. Forget about asking an elderly person to fiddle with sensors that require Bluetooth or WiFi. The user interface should be simple, plain and simple.

In addition to making digital health as easy as possible for older adults to use, the products need to take a human-centered approach to care. COVID-19 is not only a pandemic disease; It also led to a pandemic of isolation, particularly of the elderly. Digital health technology should not increase fuel segregation but rather inspire communication. With just a tap or a tap of a finger, a senior should be able to connect with a health coach, start a video call with a medical professional or follow an exercise routine from their phone, tablet, or desktop computer. Building relationships and trust are essential, as is having a virtual support team that can monitor seniors and intervene when needed.

Unfortunately, American culture does not value its elderly population as much as it can, which has led to the negative stereotype that older people are less capable, especially when it comes to technology. Yes, there is a generation gap, but that doesn’t mean digital health companies should treat older adults as irrelevant. The pandemic has highlighted the need for more digital health solutions geared toward older adults, and research shows they are willing to embrace new technologies. Older people deserve new digital health technologies just as much – if not more – than younger people.


Mark Luck Olson is CEO of RecoveryOne, an innovative digital health company dedicated to improving the cost and quality of recovery from musculoskeletal injuries (MSK) of all kinds. Olson, a 30-year health care veteran, has worked closely with executive teams in the health services market to accelerate performance and top line growth. He has built his reputation as a health technology strategist who can unleash the potential of the enterprise. He holds an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Business.

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