WASHINGTON— Dec. 1, 2009 — Baby boomers have a unique relationship to technology — different from any generation before or since — and they are actively shaping the devices, software and services of tomorrow by the choices they are making today, according to a new research report from AARP and Microsoft.
Curious to understand more clearly how baby boomers view and use technology, AARP and Microsoft decided to ask. In May 2009, the two organizations sponsored a series of focus group-like discussions with baby boomers in four U.S. cities: San Francisco, Phoenix, Chicago and New York. Author and futurist Michael Rogers led the sessions as the baby boomers shared their technology-related experiences, insights and expectations — and how their personal values shape the way they choose and use technology. The result is “Boomers and Technology: An Extended Conversation” (http://www.aarp.org/boomertechnology), a report that offers fresh insights into a generation whose influence on technology is often overlooked, and creates a compelling picture of how boomers and other consumers will use technology in the near future.
“Baby boomers are savvy consumers who expect technology to be safe, easy to use and flexible enough to adapt to their individual needs,” said Rob Sinclair, director of Accessibility at Microsoft, who notes that many baby boomers came of age before most of the software applications and devices we now consider essential were invented. “When new technology products enter the market — products that are well-designed and can help create the life baby boomers want — they are enthusiastic early adopters who help lead the way.”
Baby boomers have the numbers and the economic clout to make their technology choices matter. By 2010, one-third of the U.S. population will be over 50. “That’s close to 106 million Americans controlling 50 percent of the country’s discretionary spending, and outspending younger adults by $1 trillion in 2010,” Rogers wrote in the report. “Consumers in their 50s show the highest intent to purchase consumer electronics among any age group.”
Yet, it is baby boomers’ values and ideals, more than their checkbooks, that are shaping the future of technology, according to Adam Sohn, director of Integrated Communications for AARP, a membership and advocacy organization for people age 50 and older.
“Baby boomers want technology that reflects their values and helps them express those values with greater purpose, meaning and impact,” Sohn said. “While boomers are heavy users of technology today — for everything from entertainment and news to online banking and social networking — what’s most exciting is the technology-assisted world they are helping to create.”
Rogers, a futurist, agrees: “Baby boomers see technology as a gift, not a given, so they are less likely than younger consumers to take it for granted. At the same time, baby boomers aren’t dazzled by every new gadget that comes along. Yet by embracing innovative new services and devices, and using them in unexpected ways to enhance their lifestyles and values, baby boomers are having a tremendous influence on emerging technologies.”
Based on his discussions with baby boomers, and his ongoing research into the relationship between society and technology and what’s currently in development, Rogers offers an exciting view of that world in 2019, just 10 years hence, when the youngest boomers will be turning 55 and Generation X will begin crossing the 50-year mark.
Within the decade, Rogers forecasts that some baby boomers and other consumers will be wearing sensor-equipped exercise clothing and GPS-enabled running shoes during workouts to monitor their physical condition, track the calories they burn, and upload the information automatically for storage and analysis. Other boomers will have prescription glasses that connect wirelessly to the Internet or other networks and display information in the lower half of the lens, or carry mobile devices that can function as electronic wallets, offer full telepresence and project large-format images on the wall.
Increasingly, baby boomers will use technology to help them care for their aging parents — employing sensors that alert them to changes in behaviors or routines that could signal problems — and to manage their own health with tools ranging from low-cost gene scans to implanted microchips that contain their health records. Boomers also will use computers to control energy use in their “green” homes and to redefine when, where and how they work. (For the complete forecast, see the full report and executive summary.)
“Baby boomers appreciate cool software and devices as much as anyone, but they also believe technology has the power to help bring about positive social change, and they want to make that happen,” Sohn said. “Boomers care deeply about social justice and individual freedoms, and they see technology as a tool that people can use to improve their lives and make the world a better place — from making society more democratic to helping all of us participate more fully and more directly in the decisions that affect us.”
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world’s largest-circulation magazine with over 35.5 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP’s nearly 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP.org. AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
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