“My parents/grandparents will never use that smartphone. They’re too old and set in their ways to learn something new.”
“Seniors won’t let technology into their homes and lives.”
“Tech devices for older adults have to be stripped down and simplified. They won’t be able to use the same ones as younger generations.”
We’ve heard all those and more from family caregivers, so-called experts, and tech company employees over the several years we’ve covered CES®. We still hear it from some.
- You’re underestimating the willingness and ability of older adults to adopt new ideas.
- Have you really tried to get seniors to use tech devices – – taken the time to explain and demonstrate how the devices work and given seniors a chance to see the benefits from using them?
- You can’t lump over 45 million Americans (and growing) into one bucket, as if they all have the same interests, needs, abilities, and desires.
and, an important one we believe,
- That’s one area family caregivers can make a difference!
We’ve seen signs the tech industry has gotten those points over the last few years and even more so in our review of the program and exhibitor list for CES 2017.
Technology for All at CES 2017
My review of the conference program for CES 2017 reinforces what we have seen and heard over time – – while seniors may have specific technology needs, their perspective on tech is not that different from other age groups.
Why do I say that?
It’s not because the CES program contains a lot of discussion of seniors and their needs. There are, in fact, relatively few. But I see that as a good thing.
Rather, the CES conference program reflects that the topics and concerns many seniors may have about technology are shared by those in other age groups and are being addressed by the tech industry.
Could it be that concerns attributed to seniors about letting technology have a significant role in their lives are a reflection of how family caregivers and others who are younger feel?
We have long thought that may be the case.
Technology Concerns Addressed at CES
My review of the CES 2017 conference program has me excited about what will be discussed. While many of the session topics carry over from prior years, the descriptions reflect advancements in thinking and approaches from what we have seen before.
Let’s look at how a few of the concerns expressed by seniors — or those speaking for seniors — are being addressed.
It turns out technology that’s easy to use is important across age groups. We have seen talk about this in the past but there seems to be more action now.
The tech industry has recognized for a while consumers aren’t interested in the inconvenience of opening up a different mobile app for each connected device in their homes.
There are several sessions in the CES program that reflect a thinking that goes beyond common control and operation of our connected devices. Instead, our devices should just work for us, doing what we need them to do.
Letting Tech Into Our Homes
Seniors are not the only ones who may resist letting technology – and with it the loss of personal privacy – into the home. We see that concern raised by those of all ages.
The tech industry, parts of it anyway, recognize a more marketing-oriented approach will be needed to penetrate beyond those who jump at the latest and greatest the industry has to offer.
The industry seems to be understand one of the responses we have long given to the concerns about the intrusion of technology into seniors’ homes, that consumers need to be given a chance to understand the benefits of that technology.
Tech has long been discussed in terms of its features and sold based on what it can do. That approach limits the market to those who can make the leap and understand the benefits associated with those features. Tech companies, understandably, want more.
The CES program reflects a broader realization the marketing of technology has to go beyond the features to what that technology will do for the lives of those who bring it into their homes and those of their families. I see this as a real step forward.
Data Privacy and Security
The loss of personal privacy is a key concern about technology, not just for seniors but those of all ages. When we let connected tech into our homes, pockets, cars, and everywhere, who are we letting into our lives that we don’t want?
CES has included much discussion of cybersecurity for years and it is woven into many conference tracks for CES 2017, but that discussion is taking on even more of a consumer focus with the Data Privacy and Security Summit track.
The title of the first session of the Data Privacy and Security Summit, Building Trust in Emerging Technologies, says a lot.
Or maybe it doesn’t, as the rest the Summit looks at monetizing the personal data that is produced by consumer devices, which challenges the privacy and security of the data. It will be interesting to see the details of this discussion.
Exhibitors at CES 2017
While we see the discussions at CES conference sessions as interesting and important, CES is really about the exhibitors, the companies large and small putting their technology on display for the industry and media attendees.
As with the conference sessions, there is no marketplace in the CES 2017 exhibits that will focus on the needs of older adults. There are, however, several marketplaces that include products that will be important in meeting the needs of seniors.
Doing some quick searches on the list of CES exhibitors gives us this information:
- Health & Biotech includes 416 exhibitors
- Wearables has a whopping 763 exhibitors
- Smarthome/Appliances tops that with 971 listings
- Personal Privacy and Cyber Security is listed by 81 exhibitors
- Robotics, which we see as important to the future of aging in place, includes 277 exhibitors
I was exhausted after just reading through the exhibitor directory for CES 2017!
There will be a second Press Day for CES 2017, a further indication of the number of companies that want to show off what they have to offer.
Excited for the Future — and for Today
We always look forward to CES with anticipation about what insights it will offer into the future of technology for seniors and family caregivers. CES 2017 is no different.
If anything, in fact, we have reason to expect more promising and specific insight into what that future has to offer.
Even more than in the past, however, we expect CES to provide us more insights into what TODAY has to offer for seniors and caregivers.
That has us very excited!