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New tech for old-timers

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WORLD Radio - New tech for old-timers

New data indicates that older Americans are adopting digital technology at similar rates as their children and grandchildren


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MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Up next: Tech-smart seniors.

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, but new data from AARP shows many older people are picking up new technology. Last year was the first time in which Americans 50 and older bought smart devices at the same rate as younger people. That includes folks in the 70 plus category who are buying smartphones, smart TVs, and tablets.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: So how is smart technology changing how older Americans live their lives? WORLD Radio’s Mary Muncy reports.

MARY MUNCY: Phil Olson and Bill Yozipovich are both in their 70s and work as Realtors in Indiana, but they have very different ideas about how useful technology is in their business.

Yozipovich used to teach technology classes to high school and junior high students before becoming a Realtor. He says some of the new tech is making his current job easier.

BILL YOZIPOVICH: FaceTime, it's great. When we go through and show somebody if say out of state and want to see their house, we FaceTime them. Things that we couldn't do before.

Olson is more skeptical.

PHIL OLSON: Instead of communicating with people face to face, it allows us to kind of hide behind the scenes, and I think we lose a lot by that. Real estate is all about getting to know people.

It’s also constantly changing. Olson and his coworkers had training for a new web-based platform for the business the next day… the business has changed its platform several times since Olson started in realty in 2005.

OLSON: In order to be able to do real estate efficiently, you have to learn the new program. We don't die at 70. You know, I still have life left in me, but I don't have the life left me to learn stuff that I was doing just fine.

So what’s driving many Americans like Olson and Yozipovich to learn the new tools?

Steve Ewell is the Executive Director of the Consumer Technology Association Foundation. He says the growing number is partly because people already used to adopting new tech have gotten older. And as Americans work longer, they have to learn new tools in the industry.

STEVE EWELL: It's all about finding what is that value proposition. You know, why do I want to learn about that new piece of technology? If I can have a really good reason to learn it, then, you know, people of all ages are happy to find it and adopt it.

Ewell says part of the value proposition for older adults is fueled by children and grandchildren who want to FaceTime their grandparents or watch a movie at their house… If the grandparents want to do that, they may decide to get high-speed internet, a smartphone, and a smart TV so they can access streaming services… things they may not get otherwise.

But it’s also partly because the tech has become more useful and usable as companies start to market to a population that’s gaining increasing buying power.

EWELL: Everyday 10,000 people turn 65 here in the U.S., and that's continuing to go on and grow over the next decade or so.

Some of the biggest growth trends Ewell and other experts that I spoke with are seeing are in that social and entertainment technology… but health tech is growing right along with it.

Ewell says some of that growth is because with a bigger market share comes more options… which means people can find things that fit their lifestyle.

So maybe mom or grandma doesn’t want to use Life Alert, but she would use an Apple or Garmin watch which both have fall-detection capabilities.

EWELL: Often what we find is people are interested in having something that doesn't necessarily call them out as an older adult because you have that product, you know. They want the same, you know, watch or the same headphones or whatever that they see their, their kids or their friends and others have.

And if someone likes their gadget, they’re more likely to keep it with them. After all, a Life Alert doesn’t work if the button is on the kitchen counter across the room.

Now, some companies are developing AI that can detect when someone falls and send an alert or even analyze movement to help know when someone needs a walker.

Tools like that can give caregivers some peace of mind with minimal invasion of privacy—even if the caregiver can’t be present 24/7. Ewell says that’s especially important as the number of aging adults rises… while the younger population lags behind.

EWELL: I never want to replace the people in the system. I mean, the people in the system, those connections are critical. But if we don't have enough people in the system, that technology can be something that can help provide some additional level of support, some additional level of connection.

Back in their office, Realtors Olson and Yozipovich are finding some technology that works for them even if they’re frustrated by having to learn a new system.

OLSON: I love getting my email I can read on my phone versus have to get out a computer so you know, stuff like that. It's very beneficial, especially in real estate.

Both say it takes time and effort to keep up with the latest and greatest tech, but they’ll keep doing it, as long as they have a good reason to.

YOZIPOVICH: It's endless. It's always learning. And what's here today is gone tomorrow.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Mary Muncy.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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