A Tech Boom for Boomers

By John Marick

As the baby boomer generation approaches retirement, this group of 78 million has given tech companies cause to reevaluate their target audience. With spending power that eclipses  younger generations, baby boomers certainly have the means to purchase new technologies. And not only do they have the means, they also have the interest.

Technology companies have traditionally pursued young audiences keen on staying current with the latest gadgets. The assumption  being that younger generations are more open to testing new technologies, will be early adopters and will drive continued development and growth. However, as baby boomers flex their spending muscle,  technology companies are looking for ways to cater to the 50+ market, tapping into it for innovative ideas and guidance.

In fact, the 50+ market has proven to be technically proficient, with 78 percent online in 2011 and 85 percent owning a cell phone in 2010, according to Pew Research Center studies, leading more companies to tailor products and services to their specific needs.

Wireless companies being no exception in recognizing the purchasing power of boomers,  have made some significant investments in products and services that accommodate their  needs and interests. Rather than introducing dumbed-down products, they’re emphasizing the features most desired by the 50+ audience.

Consider the Doro PhoneEasy 410, offered by Consumer Cellular and designed specifically for a senior audience: the phone features large buttons and text,  a bright display, clear sound, an emergency call button and hearing aid compatibility. Intended for casual users, the phone is simple and intuitive. Along the same vein, Consumer Cellular is a no-contract wireless service provider, offering simple, low-cost plans for consumers who desire the security and convenience of a cell phone, without being locked into a contract and paying for unneeded, complex features.

While many in the 50+ camp just want a simple phone to make a call, a healthy portion  of boomers have embraced smartphone technology: 24 percent in 2011, according to Pew. Phones like the Motorola Bravo, while not designed specifically for seniors, provide a colorful touchscreen display, making typing easy with a swipe of the finger. Equipped with a camera and camcorder, the Motorola Bravo also makes it easy to capture special moments, whether with grandchildren or on a trip of a lifetime. Able to support wireless, GPS and 3G, it helps users keep in touch with loved ones while keeping tabs on news and developments.

The adoption of smartphones also opens the door to some interesting and useful apps (or applications). A Pew survey conducted in spring 2011 found that 17 percent of cell phone users between the ages of 50 and 64 downloaded apps. For boomers who enjoy traveling, apps like Google Maps, when used on an Android operating system, feature voice navigation to a destination. Facebook’s app keeps users in contact with friends while on the go.

Boomers juggling the responsibility of caring for aging parents can access a wealth of information from apps like Elder 411 and Elder 911. Elder 411 offers features and advice on elder care, while Elder 911 guides users through emergencies and coping with hospitals, insurance, wills and other important documents. Apps like iTriage serve as a quick check on new symptoms, aches and pains that seem to arise more frequently with age.

Many apps are free or inexpensive through sources like the Apple App store, and developers are increasingly introducing apps geared to boomers and seniors. Games, banking and investing, healthcare, travel and other leisure activities are just a few other popular topics.

Finally, as wireless devices become more critical and as boomers grow more forgetful with age, tech companies are introducing tools that help locate devices that have been misplaced or mislaid. Numerous apps help find phones, using technology like GPS to pinpoint a location or by enabling remote control of the ringer. Zomm, the “Wireless Leash,” uses Bluetooth technology to sound an alert when it becomes separated from a mobile phone, and it includes a panic feature for help in an emergency.

As tech companies court the 50+ market, watch for senior-friendly features in a range of gadgets from phones to e-Readers, tablets and game consoles. With the right attitude, boomers are experiencing  a whole new world.

John Marick is co-founder and CEO of Consumer Cellular, the exclusive wireless provider for AARP and a top-rated carrier of no-contract cell phones and service plans for boomers and seniors. Consumer Cellular products and services are available nationwide at leading retailers, such as Sears and RadioShack, and direct from www.consumercellular.com..

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