Smartphones have gone from being a luxury or convenience to a necessity or a lifeline, yet people over 50 are less likely to own devices and more likely to feel left out on their part.
why does it matter: More than ever, services and businesses from banks to doctor’s offices and restaurants to airlines expect users to have access to smartphones — but many seniors still lack digital skills, and products don’t always take their needs into account.
In numbers: December 2021 exploratory study An AARP survey found that three out of four people over the age of 50 say they rely on technology to stay connected, but 42% say technology is not designed for all ages.
- “This is a big number and a big problem,” Michael Phillips, director of technology strategy and partnerships at AARP, told Axios.
The Big Picture: Many new features introduced in Apple and Google products such as iOS’ Fault detection and Android live translationintended to save lives or improve personal interactions in real time.
- But still, older users are hesitant to jump on the smartphone bandwagon. a Pew Research Center study Earlier this year, it was found that 96% of US adults aged 18 to 29 own a smartphone, compared to 61% of those 65 or older.
Defenders are worried Especially since these elderly nonusers may be missing out on the ways in which health apps paired with phones can improve their lives.
- “If people don’t trust technology, they won’t use technology, even if it helps them live a little bit healthier,” says Phillips.
- University of Michigan exploratory study From February it was found that 28% of adults aged 50-80 said they use at least one health app on their mobile devices, while 56% said they have never used one.
- The survey found that older adults who reported excellent, very good or good health were more likely to use health apps compared to those in good or poor health.
Yes, but: Designing devices and operating systems that are easier for more people to use has become a focus of the tech industry, and there has been progress.
- Besides the now-standard audio and visual accessibility customizations like text size, zoom, and voice assistants, phone makers have expanded capabilities for phones with additional speech interfaces and additional hardware.
- Apple’s new iOS 16 also has Added access options for older users With features like door discovery and live captions.
- “While we have a lot to accomplish in this area, we are committed to making accessibility a primary consideration for Android product design,” Google’s Angana Ghosh, Director of Product Management with Android, told Axios. “We partner with communities to see first-hand the challenges they face and how we can be most beneficial to them.”
what are they saying: “There are technical problems with smartphones for the elderly…[but] The benefits remain a huge plus, Debra Berlin, executive director of the Getting Older People Online Project, told Axios. “The smartphone is an invaluable tool for aging.”
Between the lines: The new feature is only useful for older users if they know it exists and can easily find it.
- Often, accessibility tools and patterns are tucked away under submenus or hidden with confusing names.
- “Ease of discovery can be particularly important for individuals who may not be considered to have a disability, but who may benefit from using accessibility tools,” says Google’s Ghosh.
Reality check: Advocates worry that UI and experience designers are getting their biases at school.
- “Really inclusive design has to happen within universities and teach people how to design more holistically,” Phillips said.
Bottom line: For older users to fully embrace the smartphone, they will have to feel more comfortable with technology and have confidence in their ability to find uses for it that will improve their lives.