Tuning in older generations to tech

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Greatcall/Zero Edge Technology

Senior citizens’ disinterest in technology, which often is prompted by their apprehension about it, prevents them from benefiting from advanced devices and services. John Markoff, who is a former New York Times technology reporter, says that, although the disinterest is cultural, it also is physical, particularly in regard to the small interfaces that come with many devices. He urges older people and their loved ones to seek out larger and simpler interfaces. For instance, a few mobile apps make a smartphone’s display simpler and the icons larger. Some smartphones, have a single-list menu that’s on the home screen that provides easy access to frequently used features. The Jitterbug Smart also has optional health and safety features, including MedCoach, which sends medication and prescription-refill reminders to the user.

Richard Adler, who is a consultant to Avenidas’ Generations Lab, which helps older people to become more comfortable with technology, says Raku Raku phones that are sold in Japan are designed specifically for older adults and provide a camera and light function that illuminates and magnifies small type.

Generations Lab believes that the aversion to technology by the elderly, in particular, prevents opportunities for them to maintain an independent lifestyle.

Avenidas President Amy Andonian says family and friends can help to acclimate an older person to technology by introducing it based on the older person’s interests. “You should lead with people, not technology,” Andonian says. Furthermore, seniors require more “hand-holding,” she says.

Andonian and Markoff agree that, unfortunately, technological development doesn’t tap the perspectives of older people nearly enough.

—C. Maynard