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Design for All
Average reader rating: 9  
by Menno Scheers, Club of Amsterdam 05 Senior Citizens & future Technology

May 2003
Senior Citizens & future Technology

The Club of Amsterdam organised a conference about senior citizens and future technology on April 23rd, 2003. The main topic was about creating a vision and strategy for how to provide a higher quality of life for seniors in the future. This report will give you a brief summary of the topics and the discussion between the panel and the participants of the Club of Amsterdam. The participants of the event filled out a questionnaire. The results are given in this report as well.

Around 2030 there will be more people and those people will get older. Old isn't the same as ill, frail or invalid. Senior citizens are all individuals who want to live independent as long as possible. Feeling safe is important for them and they want to make their own choices. 94% of the participants stated that seniors will be able to play a fully integrated role in society in 2050.

75% of the participants thought that we need different technologies to get a higher quality of life when they are a senior citizen in future. At the moment there are a lot of technologies available that are not yet used by seniors to improve their quality of life. Technologies that have a potential to support seniors in their goals in future are in the area of smart living, embedded technology, wireless applications, advances in sensoring technologies and actuators and broadband applications.

Obstacles for using new technology are awareness, eagerness and ability. There is a huge offer of different technologies. It takes a lot of time to sort the most useful out. Also the eagerness and ability of seniors play an important role. 75% of the participants thought that senior citizens will be interested to get used to new technologies. However, 69% stated that seniors in the future won't adapt easily to new products.

Seniors don't seem to prefer products that are specially designed for them. Jan Thie thinks that companies need to focus on 'design for all' if they want to sell to seniors. Developing of care and service arrangements for seniors is another challenge for companies. 75% of the participants thought that the government should promote the development of new technologies for senior citizens for example by subsidies for research & development.

Research has shown that the formative period of each generation has a big impact in the way they relate with technology now and in the future. This is the base of the concept of Mili Docampo Rama for Technology Generations. Understanding the mindset of people of different generations is needed for understanding how people use technology. Seniors use technology in another way then teenagers because they have different experiences with technologies.

Development and research on senior citizens isn't trendy according to Mili Docampo Rama. People and companies don't want to be associated with seniors. It has a dull image. Hugo de Bruin thinks this might change in the future because there will be more seniors then. Mili Docampo Rama explains that seniors don't want to be stigmatised. Companies have to avoid stigmatisation of seniors and shouldn't develop products dedicated to senior citizens. The key to the senior market is inclusive design. But is it possible to have products for all user groups? According Mili Docampo Rama it depends on your positioning. Companies have to play with their marketing and try to adapt a product to several user groups and their mindset related to technology.

Elisabeth Weinberger sees the discussion about ageing as a regional one. In the Netherlands ageing is seen as a burden for society. And then suddenly for economical reasons we realise that senior citizens can contribute to the society. A participant states that people expect to be care for when they become a senior. People then very quickly lose their competence. This leads to a waste of talent and knowledge.

It is recognised that technologies can have dysfunctions as well. Nurses used to have time for a professional cup of coffee. At the moment there is only time for the specific action. Most time is spend on the administration system. The professional action can be replaced by a technology. Personal contact can't be fully replaced by technology. Another dysfunction is the amount of information that is given by new technologies. People have a limit to the level of information they can handle. Seniors experience a lot of noise, light, ect. Technologies cause an information overload.

Intelligent houses can be used to offer seniors a longer stay at their own homes. But do we create a situation like described in the novel of George Orwell with all those cameras? Mei Li Vos thinks this is true, but now we know who is watching. Will new technologies drastically change the life of seniors for the next 50 years? 88% of the participants answered yes to this question. One participant stated that the life of seniors in the future will change, but that the driver behind this change is society instead of technology.







Please also take a look at the:
Articles, Links, Club of Amsterdam Forum
and the Club of Amsterdam Event about 'Senior Citizens & future Technology'




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