No longer big, beige, and boring
Joseph Coughlin and Luke Yoquinto
The Wall Street Journal
Technology for old people has usually been designed “by young people who couldn’t imagine themselves actually using it,” said Joseph Coughlin and Luke Yoquinto. From the 85-pound “wearable” heart-rate monitor of 1947 to today’s gigantic remote controls and ugly hearing aids, these devices can be classified as BBB: “big, beige, and boring.” They’ve forced older people to choose: “Spend money and energy on an unappealing technology, or go without it.” Many have picked the second. That’s why, for example, “people with hearing loss go seven years on average between detecting a problem and seeking a hearing device.” But with the nation slowly getting grayer—by 2030 the share of the U.S. population 65 and older will be as high as it is in Florida today—big tech firms are starting to consider “older adults’ desires and aspirations.” Amazon bought the online pharmacy PillPack this year for $1 billion; two months later, Best Buy purchased the maker of the simple Jitterbug phone for $800 million. But the biggest change can be seen at Apple. “Tucked away within the elegant Apple Watch, technologies like fall detection and heart-rate monitors may be cured of their stigmas.” Eye-pleasing aesthetics, tech firms are beginning to learn, are not just for the young.