Many of the solutions designed and engineered for seniors are not acceptable to those known as Baby Boomers, who don’t want to be treated as old. The typical boomer believes old age doesn’t begin until they are 72 with the ‘forever young’ baby boomer mindset, according to a 2009 Pew Research survey.

This research found that 61% feel younger than their actual age, and the typical boomer feels nine years younger than his/her chronological age and believes that ‘seniors-only technology’ is a turn-off.

Experts say that new technologies and web services will need to be intuitive and easy to use but not insulting. If it’s good technology, seniors embrace it the same as everyone else – the key here is if it is truly good and they see a real use for it, whether for entertainment, business or lifestyle. They are smart shoppers who aren’t so much interested in the useless bells and whistles many products contain.

While boomers don’t want seniors-only technology, brands need to be sensitive to the fact that they have not grown up as digital natives. Hesitation to go online is often not because of lack of interest but because many technologies and social networks are not developed with older people in mind.

Libby Banks of WGSN is on record as saying that baby boomers are less than half as likely to use public touch-screen displays as generation Y (30% vs 64%) or use smartphone-enabled scan-to-buy in magazines (19% vs 52%).

“As baby boomers increasingly replace their desktops with tablets or laptops, they are catching up with younger generations when it comes to digital multitasking. Tablet usage often complements other media consumption such as watching TV, commuting while listening to music, or talking on the phone,” she says.

Abby Stokes, author of the book Is This Thing On? A Computer Handbook for Late Bloomers, Technophobes and the Kicking & Screaming, believes that one of the biggest obstacles can be the language. “The older generation grew up socialising, so the term ‘social networking’ sounds manipulative. Facebook friends are not necessarily real friends, and they hear stories about teenagers who are not making the best choices, so they are afraid of people over-sharing online.”

Paul Davies, senior technology analyst at Intel, comments, “It is clear that Britain’s over-55s are keen to keep up with the nation’s younger consumers when it comes to technology. Gradually more and more seniors are becoming regular internet users, connecting from a range of mobile and in-home devices. While brands may not see seniors as their most profitable group, products and messages tailored towards this sector could be highly rewarding, especially in product categories that are still evolving.”

Retirement crisis

Many baby boomers plan (or need) to keep working and earning money during their retirement years, but will alternate between periods of work and leisure, according to a survey by Merrill Lynch.

The New Retirement Survey builds on the conventional wisdom that many baby boomers are not interested in pursuing a traditional retirement of leisure. “Baby boomers fundamentally will re-invent retirement,” said James P Gorman, president of the Merrill Lynch Global Private Client Group, in a news release about the survey. “With baby boomers living longer and remaining engaged and employed beyond age 65, many of the traditional financial assumptions regarding retirement need to be re-examined.”

Aimee Picchi says that there is a retirement crisis ahead for boomers and generations X-ers, with most workers having less than US$25000 in total savings. “Americans are headed for a dismal old age, and many have their heads in the sand.”

Forbes says; “We are on the precipice of the greatest retirement crisis in the history of the world. In the decades to come, we will witness millions of elderly Americans, the baby boomers and others, slipping into poverty. ‘Too frail to work, too poor to retire’ will become the ‘new normal’ for many elderly Americans.”

Workers who retired post-2000 realise they cannot possibly live on their meagre retirement savings (generating virtually no interest) and limited health benefits, and conclude that they must go back to work.

Many current workers and retirees at some point realise that they can never fully retire, i.e., stop working altogether, and commit to working part-time for as many of their golden years as possible, says Forbes.

Acknowledgement and thanks are given to the IID Trend Report for information obtained and used in the compilation of this article.