Decoding Design

How to design for tomorrow's tech-savvy elderly

How to design for tomorrow's tech-savvy elderly

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A new report from Boston Consulting Group suggests how designers can best research and create future products for the generation that will hit age 55 (and above) 20 years from now.

By 2032, as the "silver segment" --those age 55 and above--will account for at least half of all growth in consumer spending across the so-called developed world. A new report from Boston Consulting Group, released on December 13, suggests that wise companies and design firms will see this demographic prediction as an opportunity to design what could be profitable new products for a generation of aging tech-savvy buyers who may not perceive themselves as "old."

The report, "Global Aging: How Companies Can Adapt to the New Reality," features (among other topics) BCG's recommendations for designers and manufacturers seeking to target older audiences twenty years from now. These include the following observations and recommendations:

  • It's important to remember that the silver segment two decades from now--basically, Generation Xers and young Boomers--will likely be more active online than people currently 55 years old and above
  • Older consumers generally seek products that are "functional, simple, accessible, and convenient"
  • Designers should create products and services that emphasize older adults' "special needs" -- in terms of physical limitations--in a positive rather than patronizing way
  • Companies should keep in mind that there are different buying tendencies for various groups within the silver segment; for instance, those who are 55-65 years old are often still working; those who are 65-75 have different needs in terms of mobility and financial resources, as do those in the 75-85 age group
  • Marketers should presently carry out market research with younger groups on the cusp of the silver segment, who are currently 45-55 years old, to prepare for future products they might want in their older years
  • Future silver segment members may not seek the same products that their parents and grandparents did, because of shifting perceptions of what it means to be "old." Companies and designers would be wise to develop a fresh products for aging populations in the arenas of health care, housing, and everyday gadgets--as well as shopping experiences for the future elderly who may feel "young" at 55 or older, but have mobility or sight issues

In the report, BCG estimates that the U.S. alone currently represents a $1.4 trillion market for products and services for people age 65 and older. And because it's a market that will likely grow, as 50% of the U.S. population will be age 55 or older by 2032, it would be smart to keep the current needs and perceptions of this future demographic in mind while researching designs for tomorrow's gadgets and services.

Image: Alex Raventos/Flickr

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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure