Wednesday, January 16, 2008

technology that embraces more than one generation

I think I read about some car manufacturers wanting to design a car to better suit seniors. Seeing that there is a ground swell of baby-boomers who aren't going away so fast, they can't be ignored as a market. What about computers? Are computers the kind of thing that only targets the younger folk. I was thinking of that movie "Babe" with the little pig. In the movie the pig's owner's son buys them a Fax machine and tries to get them to use it. It might as well have been a paper shredder or a door stop.
My mother in law for instance, grew up with the telephone and dealing face to face. Today she has a hard time with the push buttons on the telephone and even though she still drives it is hard to get around to deal face to face. Companies that have necessary services for seniors, (insurance, utilities, other billing services) have found the postal service inefficient and now rely on the phone or web sites for doing business. My mother in law, in spite of being a former teacher and who is still sharp enough to learn new tricks, can not use a computer keyboard.
There are stuff today to help older folks but they are still not designed specifically for seniors. Will new technology adapt itself for aging senior use? Can you envision a keyboard for feeble hands or voice control that can deal with a weakening voice? Fax machines, a business staple, never made a hit in the average home. Sure we can magnify text and pictures on a screen and do email with ease but that little, tight, awkward keyboard is a problem that begs a solution. I am getting older also, still impressed with how many functions the Swiss can put in a pocket watch, but PDA's and cell phones are like poking a calculator with a bear paw (wookie paw). Access to information, the flow of business and the need to reach out to friends and family does not diminish with age. We need to rethink technology to embrace more than one generation.

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