Who would have thought that the Apple Watch was adored by people in the uppermost age categories? It is small, it requires some manual dexterity to use, it is technologically sophisticated, it is all the things that age-targeted devices like the GrandPad (yes, there is actually a device called a GrandPad) or Jitterbug are not. AGEIST is often asked about our thoughts on new age-specific products, and unless the consumer has a specific physical handicap, we say to just make a good product and forget about age targeting.
To equate age with a handicap is to ghettoize a huge group of highly capable people
The fallacy here is that age itself is a handicap. That somehow older people are incapable of learning a new technology. This is not only wrong, it is insulting. If someone has an actual handicap, that is another matter, but to equate age with a handicap is to ghettoize a huge group of highly capable people.
Recently we were asked to help with storytelling involving the residents of a senior living community. Most of them were wearing iWatches that Apple had given them. Why they were given them was not clear to us, but what was obvious was how much everyone liked them and used them. These are people in their 80s and 90s, and they loved the watches. We saw them being used for making phone calls, counting daily steps, exercise tracking, and text message viewing. There was also a noticeable embrace of a device they perceived as being of-the-moment and very cool.
There is an increasing amount of investment interest in “silver technology” which, given the demographics of the world are shifting older, makes a ton of sense. The problem is that so much of it is coming from a point of view that all older people are the same, that all older people require a high degree of assistance — and what exactly does one mean by “older person”?
Assume that if your product is great, people of all ages will use it
If you are one of these people in the investment or product development business, we have some advice for you. Think of your product as performance-enhancing, the same way Nike is a performance-enhancing company. Secondly, frame it as being a requested product rather than a required one. Assume that if your product is great, people of all ages will use it. This is what Apple does with their products — they make great products that are not age-specific. If you want to reinvent crutches, do it, great idea, but just make them great for all people and older people will be part of your customer base. The 25-year-old snowboarder who breaks his leg will appreciate it the same way I will if I get my hip replaced.
Older does not mean dumber. Age does not come with a lack of appreciation for design or beauty. Getting older also does not mean a lack of appreciation for helpful technology.