Technology & Innovation
Why Tech Should Build for Older Users as the First Customer

Why Tech Should Build for Older Users as the First Customer

When asked about where he first got the idea for Fast, my co-founder Domm Holland shares it was while watching his wife’s grandmother struggle to buy groceries online after she couldn’t remember her password. She couldn’t complete an essential task because something as fundamental as paying for goods was still a frustrating and time-consuming experience. In today’s age, buying online shouldn’t be an obstacle to anyone, regardless of age.

This origin story really resonated with me, because as my husband and I have managed several parental life events over the past few years, I’ve been thinking a lot about the significant gap in technology products for older users. Tech companies have expanded their target audiences to Baby Boomers, and older users have learned over time how to join platforms such as Facebook, but these products were built for younger people, by younger people. The font is too small, the screens are too confusing, and the use cases often don’t make sense. By not thinking about these older users, Baby Boomers in particular, as primary consumers of their products, companies are missing out on a significant market.

Building tech products that consider older users’ needs, problems, and experiences first can: 1) enable them to live longer, happier, healthier lives because they can access more of the technology that’s transforming so much of life for the rest of us, 2) make products more inclusive overall because they don’t assume digital nativity and are easy to use for people with all levels of experience with software, and 3) encourage companies to hire older developers and other employees who have years of valuable experience but are often under scrutiny about their culture fit.

It can also create big opportunities for tech companies for several reasons:

  • Baby Boomers are the wealthiest generation, and their assets are growing: According to Federal Reserve data as of 2019, U.S. Baby Boomers control 57% of the nation’s wealth, while Millennials control only 3%. A study by the Deloitte Center for Financial Services found that Boomers will continue to be the wealthiest generation through 2030, with assets expected to grow to $26 trillion. Tech companies that consider them a low-priority market are leaving a huge source of revenue on the table.
  • Older workers are underrepresented in existing tech companies: The average age of a developer in the U.S. is 31, and founders believe age is the strongest bias in tech. Therefore, existing tech companies likely aren’t building products from older users’ points of view. Expanding to include older customers is an afterthought for most of tech, meaning some forethought to earn their business can go a long way.
  • Despite all of this, Boomers love tech. Research by the AARP shows that older adults are adopting mobile devices at an increasing rate — 77% own smartphones, and their tablet usage is increasing even as it’s decreasing in other age groups.

Boomers have embraced Facebook as a technology and their usage is growing, but there are additional technologies they could be adapting to solve other daily problems:

  • The Insured Retirement Institute found that only 24% of Boomers are confident that they’ve saved enough for retirement, and the AARP reports that financial scams are rapidly increasing. Boomers should be able to manage their money, track their spending, find discounts, and pay their bills stress-free.
  • Baby Boomers increasingly look for flexible work arrangements, but according to a Senate report on aging Americans, only 39% of their employers offer flexible/part-time options. Older workers should have access to a marketplace for part-time jobs and benefits platforms for seniors.
  • The AARP projects that there are 45 million Americans who are unpaid care providers for the elderly, and they desperately need tech to help, as do older Americans who need to look after themselves and manage their healthcare and long-term care plans.
  • One-third of adults over 45 report being lonely, and the AARP found that 60% of single Boomers are open to dating. There are huge opportunities for social networks, dating apps, and neighborhood resource platforms that understand seniors.
  • According to a KPMG study, 66% of Boomers make regular purchases online. E-commerce platforms and payments systems should be fast and easy for anyone to navigate and use without needing to input lots of information.

Technology is capable of incredible things, and contrary to popular belief among younger founders and developers, older people need and want to use it. Companies that think of these customers as potentially game-changing customers and champions will be in a position to serve every customer better.


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