No Monolithic “Elderly” Exists

In a world of missed opportunities, there are few demographics that are more woefully overlooked than “The Elderly.” This is particularly true in the tech sector, which itself is demonstrably ageist, and skews younger for many reasons, some more logical than others. However, for entrepreneurs and angel investors looking for untapped tech markets, the baby boom generation might be what Bloomberg Beta's Roy Bahat calls “the greatest unicorn opportunity yet.”

Right now, the tech sector is focusing on a two-dimensional caricature of "The Elderly" when it focuses on older people at all. The result is a dearth of tech products that target older people, and a narrow focus for those that do. Apps and devices that have to do with health-related problems, insurance, wills, and other stereotypically limited ideas are among the tech that gets marketed to older people, but this list is a poor reflection of what the demographic really looks like.

Bahat compares the way technology firms carefully analyze younger demographics and place them into endless numbers of categories, while oversimplifying “older people” into a single “old” group. Sure, this is offensive, but it's also bad business. For example, by putting everyone aged 55 to 90 together, you're lumping together multiple generations with vastly different needs, wants, and interests. Bahat also shares the fact that insights into older tech consumers have often come serendipitously and connected to other research efforts targeting other demographics, rather than as part of a data-driven process.

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In reality, baby boomers in particular love technology, and they've got the money and time to use it. They are more likely than generations X or Y to find their smartphones “connecting,” and “freeing,” and they are joining social media platforms like Facebook in droves. According to AARP, 41 million Americans age 50 and older play video games; researchers have found that people over 60 are the fastest-growing online dating demographic. In other words, there are countless ways that innovative tech startups could be taking their [baby boomer] UX to the next level.

Silver Linings

We, humans, are already living longer, and this trend is only going to continue. Right now, the baby boomer generation has 47 times the net worth — and therefore far more disposable income — than those who are 35 to 44 years old. Tech companies who rethink the way they approach this powerful demographic are going to benefit tremendously, and so will their older customers.

Sure, there will continue to be accidental successes. Bahat points out that older customers have gravitated toward newer iPhone models because its easier to read on their larger screens, but the big screens weren't created for them, of course; they were to capture the mobile streaming and video game markets among young users. But the older customers who like those screens have many times more buying power than those young video watchers and gamers, and they're starved for tech products created for and marketed to them.

Bahat offers a fantastic series of ideas that might appeal to this older demographic, from social media and online communities shaped for people with longer lives; online work marketplaces for older workers; financial planning products for people who might have gone through life changes like divorce, remarriage, or death; and monthly subscription boxes that are actually geared toward older consumers with different tastes. In fact, as Bahat concludes, there really aren't many areas, you could imagine, where these types of opportunities don't exist.

The startup(s) who gets this right is going to create a consumer revolution for older customers, and ride the wave as a result. But, more than that, the people behind that startup may be part of a force that changes tech for the better, showing everyone else that older consumers are just as capable of and variety, even when it comes to new tech.

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