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NY Times: Gadget Marketers Discover the Elderly

The New York Times published a story today by Kevin J. O’Brien titled “Electronics Reach Out to the Ends of the Age Spectrum .” ElderGadget recommends this article to all visitors, as it documents a very interesting trend in senior gadgets: the benefits of marketing and manufacturing products for specific age groups.

The Times isn’t the only publication noticing this trend. A few months ago we mentioned an article in The Japan Times called “High-Tech gadget makers focus on elderly as a new revenue source.” The article mentioned a Sharp Aquos TV, which Sharp said it “designed to reduce time and effort dealing with complicated manipulation” and positioned as senior friendly because it only required one step to play a movie on the television’s built-in DVD player.

ElderGadget tracked down the Sharp news release that the Japan Times appeared to base its story on, and found it newsworthy not just because it described the Aquos set as senior-friendly (something vendors have traditionally shied away from), but because the set had originally been launched several months earlier as a mainstream product. It was one of the first times we’d seen a major TV manufacturer shift its marketing strategy from targeting mainstream buyers to specifically targeting the elderly.

Up until recently, vendors have frowned upon calling high-tech products “elder friendly” for fear of alienating younger buyers, which is commonly referred to as the “old factor.” The Times story illustrates this attitude with a quote from Majd Alwan, director of Center for Aging Services Technology (CAST) in Washington:

“Many consumer electronics makers are still not designing senior-friendly products,” Alwan said. “They are designing for the younger generations. They want to be hip and don’t want to be associated with the elderly.”

The Times story mentions that Sony tried to market to seniors in the 1980s, but that its efforts failed because, according to Fujio Nishida, president of Sony Europe, “even though the design was helpful for [seniors], it turned out that a lot of older consumers didn’t want to admit to being old. So they didn’t buy it.”

The Times article suggests high-tech gadget makers are now rethinking their attitudes toward seniors. It’s exciting for us atEldergadget to see this trend documented in a respected mainstream publication with a world-class technology section.

If you’d like to read more about the Center for Aging Services Technology, check out our post on the Latest Monitoring Gadgets for Seniors.


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