Technology for the elderly: digital services come up against unfriendly designs

It is surprising the ability of children, even very young ones, to deal with the digital world. “It seems that nowadays they are born already knowing it”, the adults often repeat, perplexed. The tendency is for this astonishment to be more visible in those who had their intellectual training in the analog era, being thus “migrants” in the technologies that were effectively disseminated at the turn of the millennium. Nevertheless, it is possible to learn how to use them in adulthood and maturity, and to do well in its tasks. Neuroscience now knows with certainty that in the first years of life, when the information has not yet been consolidated, the brain has a much greater adaptive capacity, but this neurological elasticity is reduced over time.

In this scenario of subsequent, unpredictable and profound technological revolution, mature people face more difficulties. The elderly often find themselves in the situation of having to ask for help from children (and especially grandchildren) to deal with tasks that are important for daily life, and that – when they become more sophisticated – end up out of control, generating anxiety and disappointment. A typical case is the access to information and audiovisual entertainment: two decades ago, it was enough to turn on a TV set and rotate a manual selector to choose one of six or seven possible channels. The number of options and the quality of what can be seen has improved immensely since then, but the digital search, which is common for younger people, has made the lives of many elderly people more difficult.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people over the age of 60 will reach 2 billion by 2050, which will represent about a fifth of the planet’s population. In Brazil, according to data from the Ministry of Health, the elderly population will surpass the number of young people up to 14 years old by 2030. This audience today represents one of the largest segmented consumer markets in the country, with a turnover of more than R $ 1.6 trillion per year. And many companies are strategically thinking about how to better serve this audience.

Technological revolutions have brought in each new round more quality of life, choice, and opportunities for all. This includes the population of the upper age groups. However, public and private managers, academia and consultancies must always remain attentive to their needs. The friendly interfaces, the simple design of equipment and the choice of colors and fonts that facilitate the visualization are some examples of simple measures, which contribute to a more satisfying experience in this age group.

A common mistake to be avoided is the diffusion of increasingly sophisticated products and services, which serve only an audience adapted to digital culture, without considering a significant part of the population whose resourcefulness with technology is not so great. A balanced development, which serves everyone with its specific characteristics, is a matter of justice and empathy, which can never be forgotten.