Like many of my tech friends who are over 55 but started in the world of technology when we were in our early 20’s or 30’s, technology is second nature to us. For those of us who grew up with tech, we often forget that the large majority of people in the US and around the world, especially in the over 50 age bracket, have not been as fortunate as we have been. In most cases, they have only embraced a technology if it can make their lives easier or provides new forms of services such as mobile telephones, instant messaging, and in older demographics, a lifeline line to emergency services should they need them.
I have been reading a fascinating book entitled “The Longevity Economy – Unlocking the World’s Fastest Growing, Most Misunderstood Market” by Joseph F. Coughlin, who is the Founder and Director of the MIT Agelab.
Coughlin states in his book that business leaders need to take more seriously the need to serve the growing older market, which he defines as a “vast, diverse group of consumers representing every possible level of health and wealth, worth about $8 trillion in the United States alone and climbing.”
The book is a very interesting read that delves into the fact that with modern medicine people are living much longer, and in a lot of cases are more active and becoming more interested in the role technology could play in their lifestyles.
The chart below shows that about 55% of those of us over 70 in America have a smartphone, but I think that number is low. I have been inside some senior citizen facilities and most of the folks there have a cell phone and, in many cases, a smartphone. The chart also shows that about 66% of baby boomers have laptops and that also may be low as we have seen laptops gain more acceptance in our age group too. Even tablets have become of interest to those over 50, and in a lot of instances, the tablet is the personal computer for people our age.
The other area that our over-50 crowd has embraced is social media. 65% of us are on Facebook, 21% on Instagram and 24% on Linkedin, while 19% are on Twitter.
As Coughlin points out in his book on “The Longevity Economy,” our demographic also has money to spend. The 50-65 age group is in all likelihood still working and has more disposable income during these years, as our kids have left the nest and many of us are getting close to the end of 30 years of house payments.
The over 65 crowd is starting to move to retirement and often have extra income to spend on tech if it meets a particular need.
Even armed with this information and knowing that an older demographic could buy their tech products, most computer makers and tech vendors design and market their products for a demographic of 18 to 45 years old. While some vendors do place ads in publications like AARP and other mags aimed at our older demographic, ads placed there are an after-thought and not really part of a focused marketing push.
That is a mistake. Our older generation needs technology more than ever as part of our aging lifestyle. This is especially true of things like smartwatches and fitness trackers with their added health tracking features, as well as dedicated devices like the ones from AliveCor which has an EKG watchband for the Apple Watch and a mobile EKG device. Other vendors have connected blood pressure readers and various other connected tools such as monitoring blood sugars for diabetics and other diseases.
Our market is too large to ignore and computer vendors and other tech companies need to reassess the fact that this market that could be very lucrative for them.