Wearable technology is a major trend these days, and all items, from Fitbits to the recently announced iWatch, aim to change the way we monitor our health. News of these products and their innovative features caused a stir among technophiles, particularly Millennials. But will wearable tech have uniform appeal to all generations of technology users?
The jury is definitely out on that. As a long-time technologist with tech-savvy parents and in-laws, I’ve noticed that seniors that use technology usually have different priorities than their younger counterparts. While some are interested in trying out the latest bells and whistles on new wearable tech products, most seem more interested in technology that is easy to use and has practical applications.
There’s a complexity hurdle that makes me skeptical that the same wearable technology that appeals to younger generations will become broadly popular with seniors. Most of the wearable technologies generating so much interest today require users to download applications, link sensors via Bluetooth and to own both the smartphone that controls the technology and the wearable technology itself. This requires an investment of hundreds of dollars, not to mention the time involved in learning how each component piece works.
The Differentiating Factor
I believe that when it comes to wearables for seniors, the most appealing products will be those that are affordable, easy to set up and simple to use. Tech designed for seniors should also have a practical use and deliver immediate value; the seniors I know don’t generally adopt new technology just for the sake of having “the latest thing.”
My company, Securus, develops products for people of all ages, including technology designed specifically for seniors. Some people I’ve talked to tell me that my perspective on senior technology adoption is only relevant to the current generation of seniors and that as the next generation ages, they’ll be used to complexity and not deterred by technology that requires elaborate setups and multiple components. I disagree; the seniors I know learned to use personal computers and modern devices, but as they grew older, they lost interest in dealing with the complexity, even though they are fully capability of using the devices. Learning new technology is just not a priority to them.
While I doubt that wearables like the iWatch will become a big hit with a large number of seniors, I do see other forms of wearable technology making a major impact in their lives, especially technology such as mobile personal emergency response systems (PERS). Mobile PERS devices are miniature cell phones that can replace the landline-based PERS base station systems that many seniors now use to summon help if they have an accident at home.
Mobile PERS feature easier setup than traditional PERS and enable seniors to call for help from anywhere in the US with cell coverage, including at home in the shower or across the country visiting relatives. In my opinion, that’s the type of practical, affordable, easy-to-use technology that will be “the next big thing” with seniors. Sometimes, simpler really is better.
Tom Collopy, the President & CEO of Securus, Inc., brings over 27 years of experience in a broad-range of technical, management, marketing, and business development positions in Qualcomm, Xcella (startup), IBM and Ford. Most recently Tom was Vice President of Engineering for Qualcomm and a co-founder of the Qualcomm Processor Design Center responsible for the development of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors which power numerous smartphones and tablets. Prior to Qualcomm, Tom was one of the founders of Xcella, a wireless semiconductor startup. Prior to Xcella Tom managed development for the Embedded PowerPC business at IBM.