How Technology For Seniors Can Improve Quality Of Life
How new tech solutions can target seniors: five key areas
Firstly, it’s crucial to identify the most important areas for seniors that reflect the concept of having a good life during retirement. In this case, we have identified; the home life, seniors’ wellbeing, their social life, chance to be mobile and to entertain themselves, as infotainment. Somehow, these five important areas mirror the so-called Afflictions flower presented in the first blog, where we unpacked seniors’ key challenges.
The first area to explore is home life. As was covered in the first blogpost, seniors are likely to spend more time at home the older they get. That’s why it’s important to investigate which tech solutions would best fit their needs at home.
Wellbeing is probably the most important area not only for everyone, but for seniors in particular, since they face a higher risk of disease and are generally ‘slowing down’. This area also includes healthcare and exercise to prevent certain medical issues when ageing.
Social life is important for all people. But for younger generations it comes more natural, as they can spend time in many different areas and forums where they interact with other people – for example at work, in restaurants and bars, when doing different activites and so on. Seniors tend to have a narrower social life. Friends might start to become sick, they might be facing dementia, or they may simply be more tired of frequent social activities. Social life also includes contact with the family, but they may live too far away for daily interactions.
Seniors´mobility is crucial for them, to be able to be feel free and be able to visit somewhere or person. In all aspects this has decreased during the pandemic, both in terms of walking around the neighborhood, and travelling to distant places with different forms of transport.
Last but not least, it’s still important for this generation of seniors to have fun late in life. In this case, infortainment and to enjoy life is important for this baby boomer generation, compared to previous generations who have traditionally taken a more conventional role as a senior. Age is just a number for this newer vital generation of grandparents.
Home life; an easier life for seniors with selected tech solutions
Our study shows that many digital seniors think that they’ll spend more time at home the older they get. Being at home more means that it would be a good idea to improve different aspects of the home infrastructure. Different tech solutions that would make life better for seniors.
Remember that this generation was actually the first to fill up their homes with different forms of technology to make life easier, like a washing machine, dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, stove, phone, TV, or stereo. This also includes small forms of kitchen technology like a coffee machine, toaster, or a bread maker. So it’s not a completely new concept for them to aquire tech solutions at home to make life easier. However, new technology solutions include:
- Better communication. With the pandemic crisis, seniors understand the consequences of meeting friends and family, since they’re in the risk group, and are more likely to isolate. This means there’s a need for better communication tools aimed specifically at them. As I mentioned in the first blog post, many seniors have increased their use of video calls over the years to talk to, and see, family and friends. The next step from this digital meeting would be to virtually meet in 3D. 3D-calling holograms are currently being developed and makes it possible to experience meetings as live as possible without meeting physically.This is a development that seniors like. Perhaps not surprisingly, as many as six in 10 digital seniors are open to use improved communication technology like a 3D-calling hologram to communicate with friends and family. This percentage would probably increase further today, since this measurement was made before the Covid-19 crisis.
- Easier consumption. Another technology that would be attractive for the digitals seniors involves AI and automated consumption. About half of them would accept at least one type of automated consumption service. I previously highlighted that many seniors think it’s boring to purchase groceries. Also, many experience the increased lack of mobility the older they get, which makes them more interested in services that simplify their life. Already now during the pandemic, seniors have started, or increased their purchases online due to lockdowns. With AI, consumption would rise to a new level. AI in a household could place orders for products and services automatically, without seniors even needing to know what is missing or what needs to be purchased. This could come in the form of an active and living refrigerator, for example. Remember we already have automated forms of payments today with electricity bills, for example. This already improves life for older people regarding private finances.
- Better functionalities. Regarding devices, different types of buttons are not always made for all people. These types of buttons can be found on a phone or smartphone, a stove, a digital temperature system at home, or on a remote control. This problem compounds with seniors who have poor eye sight and coordination. The possibility of using your voice to govern different technologies at home – or just to receive the news and weather, missed calls or messages – is interesting. In this case, four in 10 seniors see the benefit of home assistant speakers, which could help them simplify their life at home.
- More convenience. We also noticed that seniors want things to be easy to use, easy to order, easy to purchase and so on. We tested their interest in a 5G smart home solution, consisting of a bundle of services like smart lighting, thermostats, water control, door locks and surveillance cameras – many services to make life easier and have better control of consumption of water and electricity, for example. In this case, they would all be grouped in one single bundle, which means one supplier and one service contact for all this home technology. The interest was stunning. As many as four in 10 of the digital seniors thought it would be a good idea. Seniors don’t want to spend time chasing different companies and service people to fix things at home.
In the study, we found three things that were specifically important factors for them to more easily adopt smart home solutions in their home:
- Trust in handling personal data. For example, only two in 10 digital seniors trust private security companies to manage their personal data. There is a higher trust in other actors like communications service providers, mobile handset providers, IT companies or internet providers. But the highest trust in this case is for government/ states or banks to handle their personal data. This should be taken into account when handling seniors’ personal data.
- Trust in AI taking descisions. Three in 10 seniors don’t trust AI. They fear that AI will order the wrong products. They also wonder how decisions are actually made. What are they based on – the previous purchase? It will be important to be transparent and inform seniors how AI consumption works to get them on board.
- Lack of quality or solving the problem fully. Tech solutions are not always perceived as being good quality, even though the solution may be perceived as such. For example, four in 10 digital seniors who don’t have a security alarm, have not installed it because they don’t think it would make them safer at home, since burglars could potentially break in anyway. Here, the quality or the tech solution are not fully solving the problem. As a result, it’s important that services are tested and work properly before they’re presented to the suspicious seniors.
Social life; a future companion can be a robot
A key fear seniors have is being alone, or feeling more alone the older they get. Being a social species, humans always seek social interactions with other people. Our study among digital seniors before the pandemic, showed that half of those who spend most of their time feeling lonely today (who also expect to be lonelier the older they get), show more interest for social robots or robot functions. Looking at the different senior segments presented in the first blog post, the ‘ageing techies’ are even more interested in social robots than others, since the majority of them, six in ten, are interested in at least some kind of social robot function in their home.