Millennials should design technology for their future older selves

It’s fair to assume that the people in the driving seat of today’s technology are more likely to be Millennials than Boomers.

So it is understandable that the needs of an ageing tech user are not given much thought in the design of the product, service or the technology used to deliver it.

Old and young
Designing tech for your future self

To state the obvious, everyone will eventually become old (god willing). Furthermore we are currently living through a demographic wave of older people that is unprecedented in the history of mankind.

For these two reasons – selfish and altruistic – younger techno-preneurs should be designing with their future older selves in mind.

This article in The Agenda provides some examples of recent failures to consider the impact of innovations on older customers;

  • As FaceTime has supplanted Skype as a way to video-chat with family, desktop users have lost out.
  • As mobile banking has replaced the branch, customers who rely on brick-and-mortar banks face new burdens to safeguard their money.
  • As companies have moved to automated “chatbots” instead of live human phone support, older callers can find it frustrating to access automated services from phone installation to travel planning.
  • Apple’s app store offers guidance and features to support accessible apps, but it doesn’t enforce these guidelines on app-makers.

Opportunities old and new

New technologies also have an enormous opportunity to provide older customers with tools to address the key problems of aging at home – isolation, finance, transportation and health monitoring. The grocery-delivery service Instacart, for instance, has been revolutionary for mobility-impaired seniors and the disabled, expanding meal options by reducing the time and expense of getting groceries.

Better and more pervasive video chat software – from FaceTime to Amazon Alexa’s new drop-in feature – means seniors can enjoy better connections with family and less isolation.

Fingerprint or face recognition-based ATMs are not only easier for those who have trouble remembering PINs, but are more secure for all of us. And in my own field, financial services, “robo” advisers can provide seniors with objective, low-cost financial advice about decisions like how fast to spend their retirement savings, reducing the risk and high fees associated with bad advice – or unscrupulous advisers.

Understanding is the beginning

In the words of the articles’ author, “If tech companies start to include seniors in their business models from the start, they will find a significant upside. Seniors are a vast and underserved market. If technology becomes friendlier to the whole population, especially the booming numbers of older Americans, companies will find their business landscapes expanding along with their consumer base. Everyone will benefit from having happy, healthy, active grandparents — not least of all, grandparents themselves”.

Our free AF app includes tools to evaluate the online experience as part of the customer journey – by auditing the product or service through the lens of physical ageing.

Understanding the potential barriers is the first, critical step for younger creators to design ageless tech experiences. Good for their future selves and good for older users today.