tech hand

According to a recent poll, eight in 10 boomers plan to stay in their homes after retirement. As they age, they’ll increasingly need innovative technologies to keep them safe on their own. In a story for PROFIT’s 2014 Opportunity Guide, we alerted entrepreneurs to the fact that the elderly are a more important market for technology than Gens X and Y.

Gadgets such as a watch from Israel’s Oxitone Medical, which tracks the wearer’s pulse and other vitals and alerts health-care professionals to problems, fill a growing need in the tech marketplace. But in order to sell to seniors, these gadgets need to feel low-tech.

A recent poll conducted by the Media Technology Monitor found that while the majority of Canadian seniors own a cellphone, only a small number have made the leap to using a smartphone (13% compared with 63% of the other Canadians polled). Of those, only 7% said they used their device to connect to the Internet.

Geof Auchinleck, whose Vancouver-based Claris Healthcare offers a communicator for the elderly, says the lack of adoption is partially a design issue. The typical approach is to “dumb down” existing products—“But the device still looks high-tech,” says Auchinleck. To find acceptance among seniors, he argues, gadgets must be as simple to use as a landline phone.

Whether or not it’s possible to design a sophisticated piece of technology that connects to the Internet but still feels analog is up to developers. But the Media Tech poll indicates that it is necessary.

Download the 2014 Opportunity Guide to read “Selling Tech to Seniors” and other stories highlighting trends, markets and ideas for entrepreneurs.

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