Grandpa has gone digital

When we talk about digital technology – how it is used, what it is used for, how it is likely to grow… – we tend to focus, explicitly or implicitly, on young(ish) users. Millennials, for instance. I confess I do that, too.


But, according to work done by Professor Merlin Stone and his team at St Mary’s University, marketers who neglect consumers aged 60 plus are missing a trick. According to work that they presented at the Digital Customer Experience  Symposium, that took place last month in London*, by and large, older consumers (in the UK) are well connected both through broadband and smartphones. Moreover, these customers are very welcoming of digital technology at home to support independent living, provide entertainment, and help them stay connected with family and friends. The findings from their research are outlined in the report ‘Neighbourhoods of the future’, which you can access here. Here is a snapshot:

Older adults (average age 80) were actually more comfortable than baby boomers with the idea of interacting directly with their home; of having it welcome them, warn them about problems and update them on news and events in the neighbourhood, whereas baby boomers were happier with the idea of managing their home and lives via a mobile phone application. The baby boomers were also very favourable to the idea of accessing their doctor remotely, as much as possible, and researching medical matters before visiting a surgery. The two generations were both reasonably comfortable with the idea of their home helping keep them healthy, including all round monitoring and security, and they both demonstrated a strong desire to stay in their existing home as long as possible, to adapt it when needed and to be involved in its adaptation. (p. 15)



While the 60+ segment may be appealing due to its size, disposable income and, generally, positive attitude towards digital technology, their expectations and requirements should not be underestimated. The report advises technology manufacturers and marketers to:

  • Design cool devices that these customers want to buy;
  • Sell those devices online;
  • Produce devices and products that are compatible with the way those consumers are already leading their lives, yet that can be adjusted to changes in housing provision, care arrangements and others.


The authors also note that many of these users ‘will be committed to, perhaps even devotees, of at least two and possibly more of the leading providers – Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other social media channels – and anything that doesn’t fit smoothly and quickly’ (p. 13) with those platforms is likely to be ruled out.


The other factor to take into consideration is that baby boomers (though not older consumers) tend to have high expectations of customer-service.




* organised by the Academy of Marketing’s e-Marketing special interest group

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