How Urban Tech Enables Senior Citizens to Thrive in the Digital Age


Technophobia begone with urban tech innovations enabling the Golden Age to age with grace.
With age comes wisdom, but also its fair share of challenges. Even for those fortunate enough to be of sound body and mind (and all the more so for those who are not), safety, accessibility, the ability to lead an independent life and communicate most certainly cannot be taken for granted. And, in the digital age, a lack of technological proficiency among senior citizens threatens to create a significant divide – between those who can connect and thrive, and those left in the “digital dark”.
Urban technologies, seamlessly integrated within smart cities and easily accessible to the masses, is enabling older adults to be more connected and enjoy a better quality of life than ever before.

Growing older is a lonely man’s game

8.9% of the world’s population is currently aged 65 and older, a number expected to nearly double by 2050. And yet, social and physical isolation and loneliness remain common side effects of aging that most or all members of that population at risk of experiencing. Diminishing health conditions and the deaths or relocation of friends and family members are just some of the factors that lead senior citizens to be alone, feel alone, or fear of being alone as they age. The digital age holds within it the promise to promote connections and communication anytime and anywhere, but those who have yet to embrace technology run the risk of feeling shut out and even lonelier than ever.
According to Shengzhi Wang of the Design Lab at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), “frustration” with new technology leads older adults to feel they might not be able to use it, so they simply don’t even try. Couple that with privacy concerns and you get significant barriers to what could be the key to unlocking elderly loneliness.

Urban tech development: the antidote to technophobia

Despite their fears, more seniors are embracing technology, and technology use is at an all-time high among the elderly population. As of 2019, 70% of senior citizens are now connected to the internet and 40% own smartphones. They’re using apps to enable them to live independently and safely, longer. Medisafe is helping them to manage their medications, Waze and Moovit to get around, Google Maps to remind them where they parked, Skype to keep in touch with loved ones, Red Panic Button to receive help in a pinch, Luminosity to help keep lucid, and many more. These apps are easily accessible via their smartphones, extremely straightforward to use, and are proving, once and for all, that the digital age is not only for the young, but also for the young at heart. 

Innovative design that takes aging to mind

Urban tech development is about more than digitizing everyday life. It’s about coming up with digital solutions to make everyday functions more streamlined and seamless AND overcoming obstacles and pain points that prevent populations from successfully engaging in the said everyday functions. In areas such as mobility, healthcare and community services, urban tech is poised to play a pivotal role in improving the quality of life of an increasing elderly population, enabling them to remain more independent for longer, while reducing risks to their health and wellbeing.
For example, physical limitations such a lack of manual dexterity due to arthritis or other medical conditions, or visual and hearing impairments, can make it hard for senior citizens to utilize urban tech apps. Urban tech with adaptable interfaces, enlarged text, voice-to-text and captioning can help with ease of use and engagement.

Urban tech that comes with navigation aides to make content clear and accessible can help eliminate the fears seniors experience surrounding going digital. And even though their generation was not “born to swipe,” audio tutorials complete with visual aids can help teach anyone, regardless of their age, background or educational experience, how to use the tech like an honorary millennial.

But don’t get caught in the “health” trap

We are accustomed to thinking that the main needs of senior citizens are in the health or wellness areas, and perhaps communication as well, but the truth is that most of the people over the age of 65 are healthy and have an active lifestyle. It is with this knowledge that we should approach understanding them as costumers, consumers and users. When we achieve this understanding, it will be much easier to create and adapt solutions that truly fit their needs and their way of life.

Bottom line

Urban tech innovations can provide the senior citizens with the social and independent life they seek, while taking into account the unique needs of a population that, while “not born yesterday,” certainly was not born with a smartphone in hand. Armed with the right apps and solutions, today’s seniors can most certainly live well and age in grace, able to better experience, consume, connect with friends and family, navigate an ever-digital urban space, and also monitor or even improve their health in a way the generations preceding them never could.

Highroad has partnered with Dr. Dana Heller and Ori Succary, who are active in this field to explore ways to accelerate innovation for the aging population.
If you believe, like us, that we can use and adapt technologies to fit senior citizens and want to lead the next wave of urban tech and provide senior citizens with an even better quality of life, let us know! [email protected]

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