A group of older adults who call themselves Longevity Explorers are breaking new ground with businesses and product developers. These older adults are providing valuable input to entrepreneurs and businesses after assessing their tech products.
Richard Caro, a businessman with experience in startups and medical-device companies, decided to take on a common problem: he believed companies were missing the opportunity to involve older adults in the creation of products that are tailored for them, resulting in products that are unappealing to this population. He began by conducting interviews with older adults, in which the group discussed what they want from products, and why current ones felt stigmatizing. Caro then decided to offer insights from these groups to product developers.
The meetings begin with members listing topics that need addressing (e.g., hearing aids) and then the brainstorming begins, with Explorers giving specific guidelines on how to make non-stigmatizing content while also designing products that are useful for the aging community. These guidelines are published on techenhancedlife.com and picked up by companies. The website currently includes guidelines for product developers on topics like adaptive clothing, fall prevention, home sensor systems, and social isolation.
Leaders like Ken Smith, Director of the Mobility Division in the Stanford Center on Longevity, brought the Longevity Explorers to his workshop in preparation for the Global Design Challenge, a design competition focusing on products that have longevity solutions for the aging population. Other companies like IDEO, a major global design company involved with designing products such as the Apple mouse and other technological innovations, are following suit.
What started as an experiment is now a national trend; there are eight Longevity Explorer circles in four states, with roughly 500 members. The circles are funded by Caro’s company, Tech Enhanced Life, and other investors, but Caro has plans for this program to pay for itself. Through “sponsored explorations,” a paid service, older adults’ roles would be expanded beyond giving input on finished products to being more fully involved in the product development process.
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Wright A. Why are products for older people so ugly? MIT Technology Review. https://www.technologyreview.com/s/614167/why-are-products-for-older-people-so-ugly/. August 21, 2019. Accessed October 30, 2019.