Smartphones and older users remain an uneasy match

Smartphones have shifted from a luxury or convenience to becoming a necessity or lifeline, yet people over 50 are less likely to own devices and more likely to feel excluded by them.

why it matters: More than ever, services and businesses ranging from banks to doctors’ offices and restaurants to airlines expect users to have access to smartphones – but many older people still lack digital skills, and Products do not always take into account their needs.

By numbers: 1 December 2021 Survey A study by AARP found that three out of four people over the age of 50 say they rely on technology to stay connected, but 42% of them say technology isn’t made for all ages Has been.

  • “This is a huge number and a big problem,” Michael Phillips, AARP’s director for technology strategy and partnerships, tells Axios.

big picture: Many new features were introduced in Apple and Google products, such as iOS’ crash detection and android live translationAims to save lives or actively improve in-person interactions in real time.

  • But older users still hesitate to jump on the smartphone bandwagon. a pew research center study Earlier this year it was found that 96 percent of American adults aged 18-29 own a smartphone, compared to 61 percent of adults age 65 and older.

lawyer worried These older non-users in particular may miss out on the ways health apps can be integrated with phones to improve their lives.

  • “If people don’t trust technology, they’re not going to use technology, even if it will help them lead a slightly healthier life,” Phillips says.
  • a university of michigan Survey from February found that 28% of adults aged 50 to 80 said they use at least one mobile health app, while 56% said they have never used one.
  • The survey found that older adults who reported excellent, very good or good health were more likely to use a health app than those in healthy or poor health.

yes but: Creating devices and operating systems that are easy to use for more people has become a focus for the tech industry, and progress has been made.

  • With standard visual and audio accessibility customizations such as text size, zoom and audio assist, phone makers have further enhanced the phone’s capabilities with additional speech interfaces and add-on devices.
  • Apple’s new iOS 16 also has Additional accessibility options for older users With features like door detection and live captions.

  • Google’s Angana Ghosh, director of product management with Android, told Axios, “While we have a lot to offer in this area, we are committed to making accessibility a core consideration of Android product design.” “We partner with communities to find out what their challenges are and how we can be most helpful to them.”

What are they saying: “Technical issues exist in smartphones for older persons…[but] The benefits are still a big plus,” Debra Berlin, executive director of the project for getting older adults online, told Axios. “The smartphone is an invaluable tool for aging.”

Between the lines: A new feature is only useful to older users if they know it exists and can easily find it.

  • Accessibility tools and modes are often hidden under sub-menus or with confusing names.
  • Google’s Ghosh says, “Ease of finding may be especially important for people who can’t identify as having disabilities, but who would benefit from using accessibility tools.”

reality check: Advocates are concerned that user interface and experience designers acquire their biases in school.

  • “Inclusive design really has to happen within universities and teach people how to design more inclusively,” Phillips said.

Bottom-line: For older users to fully adopt smartphones, they would have to be more comfortable with the technology and confident they could have a use for it that would improve their lives.

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