Life Stage Technology – The New Frontier

The baby boomers are in their 50s and early 60s. They are accustomed to consumer goods that accommodate their interests. Not only are they looking for technology geared to their needs, but they want technology that helps them tend to their aging parents. gaming marketing

Add this to that the fact that the boomers are known spenders and consumers, and it’s no surprise that smart technology companies are beginning to see a lucrative market, and are designing accordingly.

The Jitterbug

The Jitterbug cell phone, the brainchild of GreatCall Inc. of California, launched in October 2006. It lacks a camera, customizable wallpaper or voice-dialing capability, but it is hearing-aid compatible and has chunky, easy-to-read keys, a large screen display, straightforward command buttons, a familiar dial tone, and an operator available to help at the touch of a button. gardenfrontier

The operators greet the caller by name, make calls when asked, provide directory assistance, and add names to a member’s phone list. Jitterbug’s service starts at $10 a month, has no long-term contracts and no long-distance or roaming fees. The phones come in two easy-to-use models, each costing $149. inrealtor

Early this year, GreatCall won the Andrew Seybold Choice Award for Best New Company. Later, In May 2007, Arlene Harris, the company’s co-founder and CEO, became the first female innovator to be inducted into the RCR Wireless News Hall of Fame.

The Ford Motor Company and Its “Third Age Suit”

Possibly one of the earlier companies to grasp the importance of catering to an aging demographic, Ford introduced a “Third Age Suit” to its engineers as early as 1999. The suit helps young ergonomics engineers feel what it’s like to be 30 or 40 years older than they are. furzly

The garment restricts the engineers’ physical mobility, and simulates an older person’s driving capabilities. Its bulky materials restrict movement in areas such as knees, elbows stomach and back. When the young engineers don this outfit, along with gloves that reduce the sense of touch, a headset that reduces hearing and goggles that simulate cataracts, they have new insights into the needs of older drivers.

Designed in conjunction with the University of Loughborough, the suit resembles what you get when you mate a high-tech astronaut suit with a beekeeper’s protective gear.

Vivek Bhise, Ford’s manager of human factors and ergonomics, said, “It’s one thing to read customer feedback in a marketing study: It’s a whole different thing to feel what they’re feeling while driving a car. This has been a real eye-opener for our engineers.”

The Ford Focus was the first Ford product to incorporate the engineers’ findings. bitpapa

The Focus had more headroom than other cars in its class, and had special features that allowed a driver to get in and out easily. A few years later, Ford used research findings gathered from using the Third Age Suit and the Empathy Belly (a device that simulates a pregnant woman’s shape) to design the Mercury Monterey and the Ford Freestar minivans.

Later, in Europe, under the trade name of Mobilistrictor (or the “empathy suit”), the device was used by architectural firms, elevator manufacturers, hospitals, construction contractors and in university research projects. In the United States, Boeing embarked on a nine-month research project to determine design elements that would address the needs of the aging population of fliers. The company presented its engineers with findings derived from a study that included use of the Third Age Suit.

The Senior’s Superstore

Less exciting than an “empathy” suit, but definitely helpful for the mundane tasks of cooking and food preparation, this online store sells a number of gadgets designed especially for seniors. To mention a few, the Two-Liter handle helps those with arthritic fingers or hands pour and carry a two-liter bottle of soda or water. The Slice-Nice adjustable knife is a kitchen safety product for seniors with hand tremors, limited vision, or for those with the use of only one hand.


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