Buying Grandparents tech gadgets for Christmas? Think first.

It’s almost inevitable that tech gadgets will feature on a Christmas list these days. But when buying for older people, you need to think more carefully.

The old joke about buying a drill kit for the wife’s birthday applies equally when buying for parents and grandparents. Are we buying because WE think the device is cool, or will it actually solve an unmet need and delight the intended user?

I was reminded of this issue on reading an overview of a Euromonitor report titled “Selling Electronics to the Elderly“. (A snap at US$1,325 if you’re interested). Curious about the definition of ‘elderly’ I was informed by the publisher that they meant 60+! The mere use of this descriptor signalled to me that the report was clearly compiled by a ‘youngster’ and hence I question the value of the entire project if seen only through younger eyes.

However, the mere existence of the report, reminds us of the power of we older consumers and our collective impact on almost every category of business, including tech.

One of the most insightful analysts on technology for older people is Laurie Orlov. Her recent blog titled Considering tech gifts for older adults has some fundamental but useful advice for gift-givers which I’ve summarised here;

More important than the gift itself – how should, can, or will the tech gadget be used? Also consider;

Out of the box assembly

How simple is it to set up?

Ease of installation

How simple is it to get it working? Does the device require WiFi? Does gran even have WiFi?


Does the product beed constant updates to keep functioning?

Ongoing support

Who will help us when our devices appear inexplicably unusable?

Back to the Euromonitor report, which echo Laurie’s points in the research overview;

  1. While seniors do have specific requirements, many solutions are readily available on other products. Manufacturers have to take into account seniors’ requirements much earlier in the design process.
  2. Simplified set-up, ease of use, and robust connections are also demanded by consumers of all age groups, even though the impact affects seniors the most.

Laurie, Euromonitor and I agree on these fundamentals (I’ve been banging on about them here for years) yet it is astounding how few companies adopt this thinking.

Designing for older adults must recognise the natural physical limitations as we age. We codified 25 effects of ageing which, if understood and adopted into all aspects of the customer journey (not only the product itself), will ensure that products remain usable and accessible to adults of all ages.

Surely that’s a good place to start with any product, particularly with tech gadgets?