A baby boomer turns 60 every seven seconds and they might be getting their birthday greetings by e-mail or on their cell phones. This is the first technically savvy generation, and tech companies see gold amid the silver-haired.
They surf the Web, savor their cell phones and blackberry with the best of them. Boomers do tech. Now, finally, tech companies are doing boomers.
“We're really trying to think about how are baby boomers as seniors going to be different and what types of technologies and services might they use to manage their own personal health and wellness in ways we can't yet imagine,” says Eric Dishman at Intel’s health, research and innovation group.
Intel and others see health care as the new frontier. “Basically we call it caller ID on steroids,” says Dishman. “This is a great opportunity to leverage all of the technologies that they're already comfortable with.”
Companies like IBM, ADT, Honeywell, Phillips, Medtronic and Intel are tapping the technology they already know and applying it to medication management, blood pressure and weight.
“We're looking at the cell phone as the way to convey data from a number of different biomedical monitoring devices,” says IBM’s Kathy Schweda.
“They’re looking at monitoring and sensing devices things that can pick up information that can be shared with caregivers family members physicians and give you an idea of how well a person is doing,” says Russell Bodoff at the Center for Aging Services Technologies.
The potential for technology in health care, telemedicine, and the like, is largely untapped — an estimated $60 billion market, according to Forrester Research. But that's only the tip of the boomer iceberg.
“They have money to spend and they're going to be spending money on consumer electronics, they're going to be spending money on the Web, buying on the Web,” says Mark Carpenter of the American Association of Retired Persons.
Only 22 percent of Americans 65 and older use the Web, but 58 percent of those 50-64 do — and AARP is working with companies to make Web sites more boomer friendly. “Clearly labeling things, creating white space, allowing text to be changed in size, making buttons and banners easy to click on and easy to find,” says Carpenter.
Whether it's online financial services or online shopping, boomers hold 70 percent of the nation's net worth in their wallets, and they want one thing from their technology. “In these busy lifestyles I think any type of technology that makes life a little easier and spares you some time,” says Bodoff.