Implementing Persuasive Incrementally Complex Technology for Seniors
I had you at implementing persuasive technology; didn’t I?
Aging has its downside, but there is the total increase in inductive reasoning and verbal ability in opposition to how we lose our desire for the latest gadget when our eyes weaken (from hours at a computer/tablet/phone) and when our patience level decreases with age. I could probably guess that anyone younger than 50 will see how long this article is and lose patience without reading it. Someone once said that the Internet/Web was the breakdown of our mental capacity to focus on anything of length–to invest our time and focus on one subject. You probably already have 3 Chrome tabs open (I have 29) and your mobile phone buzzing with Facebook updates (I turned 95% of mine off). Your parents probably don’t because they can still focus on one thing at a time; in fact, they want to. Hasn’t our mental capacity been shown to increase much later than some might think? Take a look at the graph here that shows “while some cognitive functions peak at around the age of 25, which correlates with peak brain mass, it appears many other cognitive functions including inductive reasoning and verbal ability do not peak until sometime after 50 years old”! Interestingly enough, that’s when manufacturers start ignoring you.
Quite frankly technology completely overwhelms the aged at a time when their inductive reasoning and verbal ability are peaking and yet manufacturers and designers haven’t done anything to positively influence or appease the aging generation with technology that is meaningful to the aged or even useful to someone who becomes easily frustrated with options, E-mail addresses, passwords and threats to security. What does that mean to you and me? It says that the aging generation needs to be able to verbalize the incredible amount of critical thinking with the years of experience they have. And SHARE it. Inductive reasoning is about pulling in information and inducing an opinion-page only enhances that. To quote a review of the movie The Big Lebowski, “the power of inductive reasoning lies in our ability to listen: to be open to new experience, to collect raw data and play with it until we detect a pattern”, which was what the main character allowed to happen when all the complicated pieces of the movie seemed somewhat irrelevant. [Source: http://dudespaper.com/the-mind-limber.html/ ]
You sometimes see social network blogs or technology posts about the lone grandmother who successfully traverses the technological frustrations and navigates the land of the iPad. What’s worse is that Apple has produced a seemingly more straightforward product and the aging generation was made humorous by placing a mature couple in the line for the latest iPhone during an Android advertising campaign. What does that say (besides ageism)? Does it tell the aged are simple-minded? Or does it mean that Apple produced something that rarely causes frustrations, is very intuitive to the user and doesn’t need to be tweaked, modified or have several apps removed to get it to work correctly? Doesn’t matter at this point but herein lies the crux: our aging generation is being ignored as technology expands. Never mind the youth culture that continuously ignores the fact that several generations of experience coupled with inductive reasoning can be tapped into to gently shape the dips and turns on the road of life we travel day today. If life blips, nay accidents or wrong choices, can be avoided, then why aren’t we tapping into that double flavored expansiveness knowledge that can be our parents? Or grandparents? I told you so could be irrelevant!
One of the problems is that our over age 65 generation isn’t in the sweet spot of product marketing which is those tweenies and then the biggest group of all 25-54. The median age here is 37 with a life expectancy of 78.62! So basically you are pandered to until you hit the ripe old age of 55 then it’s all downhill from there. Products are not created for you! Unless of course, you have kids who want to implement the Incrementally Complex Technology Project on you!
- 0-14 years: 20% (male 32,344,207/female 31,006,688)
- 15-24 years: 13.7% (male 22,082,128/female 21,157,025)
- 25-54 years: 40.2% (male 63,802,736/female 63,581,749)
- 55-64 years: 12.3% (male 18,699,338/female 20,097,791)
- 65 years and over: 13.9% (male 19,122,853/female 24,774,052) (2013 est.)
Hundreds of tiny icons. Several E-mail accounts. Applications installed on mobile technology that you cannot remove. A myriad of complex applications that do virtually the same thing. Millions of e-books published by home authors that have something to say. News beyond Fox and CNN. Geographically dispersed extended family members who have something to share but have lost the ability to keep and maintain hard copy communication. The answer lies in designing and producing for this niche market. The aging generation needs mobile devices which are light, easier to use, protected, and allow for easy web navigation–and please don’t mention the Jitterbug to me. Let’s at least act like adults who don’t believe our parents are dancing silly phone fanatics and have to use an entirely different service. The product just needs to be easy on the eyes and the user has to be able to change the font at will. When WebTV came to market, this could have been the start but someone needs to mix tablet and television viewed technology in a straightforward way–who wants to type complete sentences on a remote? Sadly, that hasn’t happened yet (not awesomely and intuitively), so to garner that treasure of expanding your aging parents or grandparents inductive reasoning and verbal gifts back to you regarding those turns in life- then honor your mother and father by implementing the persuasive incrementally complex technology. That’s what Apple couldn’t do.
The first thing you need to do is assess. My mother had one of the basic cell phones without all the crazy bells and whistles. Two years ago I could have suggested an iPhone or Android device, and she would have punched me in the face. I’m kidding about the punch – she balked at the idea. She was tired of slow PCs because she didn’t want to fiddle with emptying cache, or history, or clearing cookies. Yahoo card games were doing nothing but frustrating her because she didn’t know when or how she was supposed to upgrade to the latest Java release. I moved a state away and couldn’t respond to her technological needs fast enough. So to give her a smartphone? Wouldn’t be prudent. I assessed that Mom wasn’t ready for such technology but because I wanted to share what I knew she could tap into I needed my incremental plan.
An incremental step was next. It really only took 2 or 3 text messages sent, after my sister and I teamed up to ensure her plan was capable. We didn’t overwhelm her with options or messages. Just one or two, “I love you.” and “I miss you.” text messages and within a few weeks we were getting, “I love you too!” and “WHEN COMING HOME” back. I love her caps–simple and straight to the point. Her inductive reasoning was that I had been home several times since moving and I was also expected soon–wasn’t “Are you”, it was “when”. She learned the numeric alphabet way to send a note during our busy work days. We cracked the door open and let her peek out during Fox news breaks – thank God. Wait, I missed one very important point with Mom. She is a full-time caregiver. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011. So, as technology progressed, within a few short months Mom was texting us every day and since I was 1 state away I really loved that I could continue that daily connection with Mom on demand- without stopping. Yes, my selfish persuasive technology implementation was going marvelously.
The next step was sending a photo taken by a cell phone camera. When Mom got to see her grandchildren or a beloved pet (she loves all our pets), it was opening another window in a retired life of her home-bodied-care-giving situation. She used to like to take film photographs, but even that became frustrating in the digital age. Then one day my sister showed her how to make a photo with her cell phone. (wink, wink) More persuasion and Mom wasn’t frustrated because while her (current) technology was gradually increasing in complexity, she was having feelings of joy and wonder in her new found hobby. A critical success factor and key performance indicators that my project was going well. Joy and wonder? Check. We’re spinning our technological wheels so fast we’re missing some critical pieces of life’s puzzle.
The next step involved an Amazon Kindle. I gave Mom my old Kindle V1 (circa. 2007) when I upgraded to the Kindle V2 (circa. 2009). If you think about the Amazon Kindle products before the Kindle Fire (circa. 2011) came along most think of it as a “simple” e-book reading device. I think of the first Kindle as implementing incrementally complex…you get the idea. Mom was reading books at veracity few can match, and she was limited to just that. I have both of our Kindles synced to the same account, and when she finishes a book it updates my Facebook timeline and I know I need to start looking for another book which Amazon has made extremely easy for me because quite frankly, after all my Amazon purchases, they know exactly what we like (by reasonably inducing that I like that book so surely I’ll like one similar). It has to be either Holocaust memoirs written by actual survivors for Mom and historical non-fiction or odd scientific/textbooks reading for me. Eventually, I upgraded Mom to the Kindle Paper White so that she could more easily read without having to clamp light to the Kindle. Joy points increased by double and have persuasion points to accept new technology.
A smartphone upgrade would have been a nightmare. Why? Try being over 65 with not-so-savvy eyesight and dealing with a small screen in addition to the aforementioned frustrations. You are just asking for your persuasive project to fail! Another CSF: Easy to see. The whole thing almost fell into a crescendo of failure when we attempted to get her to view our Facebook updates more often and dared to bring a laptop into the mix. Laptops will do just as much damage because they are heavy, get laden with unexpected installations when Mom doesn’t know to install something upon pop up or has insane lockups. I find Facebook can be an effective tool with which to communicate with an entire extended family I may never see and it allows me to share with my Mother, Sister, two Brothers, Son and nephews/nieces with just a few clicks. I took the complexity of arranging my security in a way that only they see certain things whereas my friends see an entirely different thing.
One day Mom casually asked if she could watch movies on her Kindle. (Requirement noted–my business analysis says she needs something similar in size and complexity to the Kindle.) I knew then that this was my chance – this was the moment in the persuasive technology project that I needed to make an (incremental) bold move. The information world that brings me data is also a way to expand the thoughts, ideas and inductive reasoning talents to the forefront. (While it isn’t deductive reasoning–the power of experience is a gold mine.) Being at a distance, how can I get that reasoning if I know that the world viewed may be a very myopic one where news channels only report negative stories? Even a deductive reasonable thought would start to discern a horrid world. There is light and love out there somewhere and a difference of opinions. Some old friends and schoolmates are waiting to reconnect. There are photos of children laughing, soldiers fighting, and articles about Alzheimer’s research that will never come in print. The print is becoming a thing of the past, and while the tactile nature is nice, I still have the same amount of print books I had five years ago. My mother has over 85 new books in the last 25 months on her Kindle. Most of those books would have never been read had self-publishing, E-book strategies, and the Internet not been implemented.
The next step in this process is the last one I note here because although it’s the end result I sought; it’s not a final one. For a mix of Mother’s Day and Mom’s Birthday, I hit the crescendo of persuading more complex technology by getting her a Google Nexus. That could have never happened when the first generation iPad came out in 2010. I got the 7″ version because I knew by analyzing the way she used the Kindle Paper White that a 10″ tablet was probably not the best choice and I own a 10″ tablet so I knew the weight of it would be an issue if she were reclining in bed reading or now, viewing a movie. Before I sent this new technology to Mom I did several things. I removed extraneous applications that I knew would do nothing but confuse her, I added her favored card games and crossword puzzles plus memory games. I added various news apps plus Facebook, E-mail and I tossed in a few digital family photos for good measure. I configured her Facebook account such that notifications were of minimal nature, secured it down as best I could and disallowed the crazy brain killing Facebook app invites. It has a strict/strong password for any other application installs which means Mom won’t get confused or frustrated about those and I can keep an eye on it on subsequent visits.
Has this technology transition been perfect? Well, there have been a few days where she told me she couldn’t access the Internet (also known as success) and because we’ve shown her how to reboot the cable modem that was an easy fix. The Amazon music playlist I put on the Nexus didn’t go off without a hitch but I know on my next visit with her I’ll be able to do another analysis to see how she’s been utilizing the Nexus and fix that pesky music playlist so she can plug in her ear-buds while Dad watches Fox. (Take note that although this disease has befuddled language, my father reads the ticker at the bottom of the screen.) I’ve had to be a little more helpful during navigation of using E-mail for her to view a YouTube video I uploaded so that she can see video that I specifically made for her–but because of the success of my project I now have 3 (mobile phone, E-mail, Facebook) ways to send those (communication conduits) and if 2 fail the 3rd usually does the trick. And has. Facebook worked for simplicity because as of yet; there are no junk messages to rifle through to get where she needs to be. The simplest form of text, “What E-mail? I don’t see it.”. Open Facebook, look in messages. Easy.
Mom insisted I read up on Google Glass because as she put it, “Have, u heard about Google glasses! If not they will blow you away!”. Yep, I’d been ignoring Google Glass so she can share all that with me on my next visit. I also find that some of the requests she has for technology seem very inductive and she reasons that it should work that way. If she thinks it; that’s what should happen – a natural user that is in a demographic that is mostly ignored. The tablet should just know when she wants to see something it naturally occurs. This generation could be a focus group that skips wasted efforts such as WebTV (circa OLD). Google Glass? Might want to think about this underserved demographic for user acceptance.
My next step could very well be the Amazon Echo. As Mom traverses her books, thinks of different kinds of music, gives Dad his daily medications, and runs out of supplies – why couldn’t she use the Echo to be an observant (or listening) participant to ease a few of the steps? I can’t wait to see how it will pan out. I’m also hoping that Jibo will prove useful in this arena!
And God said it was good. My Mother is pretty much a creature of habit and gets to bed at the appointed early time. She’s up fairly early too. One day I sent Mom text and did not get a response. It was after 10 AM. I sent another. Nothing. I panicked just a little then called. Nothing. I messaged my sister who said she’d not heard from her either. Just before we were going to send in the rescue crew, Mom called me. She was taking a nap…..because she’d been watching Netflix offerings late into the night on her Nexus. She has no patience for television commercials. By the way, she texts me less because she’s too busy engaged in new technology. The honor I felt like I’d done? Honored me.
Remember your parents/elders and feed their technological needs even when they balk at you but know that anything that needs updating, tweaking or options won’t get good reviews and unaccepted. Understand their frustrations because one day you too will be tired of all the possibilities. Take the time to improve their world, gently and persuasively, because they indeed took the time to develop yours. Manufacturers are so focused on demographics and what’s the latest craze when it’s our elders who can pare life down into much simpler terms and help us naturally use technology by being reasonably inductive.
|United States Population Pyramid|