Rebooting an Ageist Industry: The Need to Revamp Technology Design & Distribution for Older Adults

Technology can be a gateway for older adults to maintain their independence while also providing family and caregivers with the peace of mind that their loved ones are ok. For instance, everyday housework is easier with increased automation and technology-enabled assistance, as are home temperature control, security and energy monitoring, and organizing routine tasks. In spite of these benefits, however, technological assistance is less common among older adults because of a plethora of barriers linked to ageism.  

Because older adults are often stereotyped as frail and dependent, designers are often short-sighted in developing ideas about how technology can help them, instead focusing on how it can benefit their safety and medical needs. Then when technological products are designed, these products are often not user-friendly for adults. In the event that products are designed in ways that are user-friendly, they often aren’t also esthetically appealing or portrayed desirably.  

Complications further lie in how technology is advertised. Advertisements may use vocabulary that reflects ageist stereotypes, convey messages that don’t resonate with older adults, or may be disseminated using media outlets that older adults use less frequently. Finally, in the event that older adults are interested in a certain technological advancement, most technologies rely on the internet, which is less available to disadvantaged groups including older adults because the necessary infrastructure is not in place.  

To combat these technological limitations, all stages of the supply chain must be re-evaluated to address ageist concerns. Designers, advertisers, and those in charge of infrastructure must have a more holistic understanding of how older adults can adopt new technologies and their applications. Making technology more convenient, enticing, and accessible can appeal to the desires of both older adults and those concerned with their well-being, ultimately making everyone happy. 

 

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Source: 

Lee, C. (2022). Technology and aging: the jigsaw puzzle of design, development and distribution. Nature Aging, 1-3. 

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