Old People Are Smart Enough To Know When Something Sucks

from the back-in-my-day dept

Time and time again, companies have come out with gadgets and services aimed at bringing technology to older people in easy and manageable ways: the email devices from several years ago, special printers for sharing photos and email are just a few examples. All these efforts share one characteristic -- none of them have been particularly successful. Still, that doesn't stop people from targeting this supposedly huge demographic of old people who can't figure out PCs and the internet. The latest innovation is a search engine for people over 50, from a company that has a social-networking site targeting the same age group. As TechCrunch points out, though, it too seems destined to fail, because perhaps old folks aren't as inept at this whole internet thing as these companies like to think. Mike Arrington makes the point that a large chunk of the over-50 set is internet savvy, and doesn't need "hand-holding and condescension". It's an interesting point, and one that's probably quite true. While users of a particular age might have different content interests than other age groups, to assume that they don't have the intelligence or ability to access it through the same means as younger folks seems a bit presumptuous. Perhaps the biggest problem with these services and products aimed at older folks isn't that they're not interested or can't grasp them; it's that they're intelligent and tech-savvy enough to realize that they're no good.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    James, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 11:25am

    Trying to create a market

    Alot of these companies are just trying to create a market where none exists. Maybe there's a reason alot of people 50 and older don't use PCs, maybe they don't want to.. what a concept. Those that do, learn how to use them properly and don't need the training wheels.

    No one likes being pandered to (well except maybe the fundies), this includes older people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    citizenj, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 11:55am

    shoot, man...

    when my grandma showed me how she'd setup a ddos against some 'insurance' site that tried to scam her outta money then put her on a telephone marketer's list after she'd signed up at donotcall.gov, i' figured she's doing just fine with that whole intrawebs thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Matt Bennett, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 11:58am

    My Grandma became a huge internet investor when she was in her 80's. Made us quite a bit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 12:09pm

    Come on guys. Everyone knows that older brains have a greater tendency to ossify. THOSE older people need coddling or they wont be in the market at all. Those that dont need coddling are already in the market for non-coddling products. The wisdom of this should speak for itsself--so long as there is in fact a demographic for it. Speaking as someone who counts every old person he knows in the ossified brain category, I tend to think theres a demographic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Rose, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 12:16pm

    Silly People

    I'm a 57 year old woman working as a Database Analyst for a tech support department. There is at least 30% "older folks" working as engineers in this company (a world wide software organization).

    PLEASE don't tell me some of you guys still think 50-plus people are incapable of grasping the internet, email or pictures?

    I realize that the above comments will be taken as defensive... however the fact is still there, most of us are capable of moving forward with the times.

    Don't they realize that 50 is now the new 40? ;-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Mr Schotz, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 12:20pm

    My Grandma is a hacker

    in the winter she can't play golf so she hacks, also downloads cheats to use at her bingo club

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Silly People

    This is true, I teach a Networking 101 class at a local Tech School. We DO get older students 40-65, many of them have experience on older Unices and other systems like VAX. They are just there to get a refresher on the newest Tech. advances. I personally interview each new student ( yes it takes a while, but is worth it ) since the School set a pre-req. for "Basic computing" classes. SOME of the older student i make take this class first, but for many it is not needed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Angry Rivethead, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 12:43pm


    Is that like that foolish jitterbug phone thats like $150 and has NO features? Something that featureless should be like $20.

    My parents want a phone that is cheap cheap and cheap. Cheap seems to be the ongoing theme in any old people that want tech.

    How about a prepaid phone that doesn't expire?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    qyiet, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 12:56pm

    It's an inverted Bell Curve

    When I was doing my time on the grind of break and fix for a local computer store I found that the people who were the most computer literate were either young(ish) or retired.

    People who had spare time to play and poke. The people who were least literate were those who had missed IT at school, and been too busy working to have time to learn.

    The DDOS Grandma is not to far from the truth.. one of the *most* proficient people I've seen in photoshop picked up her first PC after she retired

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    DKP, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 12:59pm

    one thing that my parents complain about who are both over 50 yet not sixtie is that many of the simple devices either cost more or are lower quality then the more complicated versions oh and yes both of them use email aim and the internet to varing degrees. all that they want is a basic phone that they can dial out on that actualy works and does not have problems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Bluesbuddah, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 1:00pm

    Get a life kids

    It would seem that the whole digital revolution is still clouded by a stereotype of seniors. This is a flawed point of view because being 50+ (and I am) simply means that you experienced the learning curve. Like any tool, the user must first learn how it is used. PCs, internet etc are just tools. Ignorance is not inability. If you put the shoe on the other foot kids, how well did you drive a car at 14? That's right-you couldn't because you hadn't learned how, not because you were mentally or physically or whatever unable. So move on-the biggest consumer of new PCs are over 65 and I have worked with a group that has successfully taught a lady age 104 to send and receive email (It's Never 2 Late).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Petréa Mitchell, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 1:07pm

    Even smarter

    Not only can they figure out when something sucks, they're less likely to put up with it. Unfortunately, it seems to be easier for companies to accept "You need to organize this interface better because old people are easily confused" or "You need to pick a more readable font because old people have bad eyesight" or a zillion other age-based excuses than "Dude, your product sucks and the old people are just the first ones who complained."

    (Of course, people's brains do ossify and their eyesight does get worse with age, but it's a shame having to fall back on that sort of thing when the design is just plain bad for any age group to start with.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    rockandrolltilIdie, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 1:16pm


    I am 51years old and have been an active PC user (daily user - several hours per day) for the last 10 years. I have a keen interest in how and why this machine works and I can perform a variety of maintenance/trouble shooting tasks in that regard, most of which I have taught myself. I find this type of marketing offensive and condescending to those of us over 50. We are not doddering relics ready for the junk heap, nor are we babies who need to be spoon fed with 'special' products. I am horrified at the thought that some of you actually think that 50 is old! Excuse me for saying so, but that makes me LMAO! :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    ara momjian, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 1:28pm

    old people

    Learned to use a pc @ 54.
    mastered xcel @ 56
    developed a market risk model @ 56
    developed beta model with calculating relative volatility of any data series at 57
    at 62 still evolving
    I like to thank bill gates...and microsoft.
    Maybe those developing easy to use products for the elderly do not understand power of intuition.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    offended by you, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 1:31pm

    Re:marketting to old folks

    you must be one of those bi-sexual penis breath punks.

    i'm 59 and i have been using computers since before you were born.

    i know what's good for me and what's not.

    worm swallower!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    seen it, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 1:33pm

    it may be true...

    My grandfather and 10 brothers and sisters would fall into the "market", only one knows how to use email.

    Of course, an earlier poster may be dead-on, most don't want to be tech savvy or have kids and grandkids who will do techy things for them.

    The products are definitely well intentioned, but I'd love to see the marketing and usability studies of each of these targeted products.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    SPR, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 1:34pm

    I'm 57 and an IT professional. My mother is 77 and buys and installs her own programs in addition to handling all the standard things like email accounts, do-not-call lists and so on. The "over 50" mentality is going to kill a lot of businesses that don't understand their demographics or are stuck in a preconceived mindset.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Pushing 60, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 1:50pm

    Re: Jitterbug?

    You're right! Too bad hiptop & T mobile haven't figured out that the sidekick is ideal for seniors who do want bells and whistles (that great big screen & a size we can believe is really a phone) especially since there's now a bluetooth handset. Lately most tech just does things (albeit often better faster cheaper) seniors can already do with older technologies. Put a lifetime of contacts (most of them only on holidays) on your palm etc Why bother?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    D P Klybas, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 1:57pm


    Correct, you are presumptious.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Bench, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 2:14pm

    I began training mid-career sales professionals (ages 35-65) on PCs ten years ago, when I was only 23. Most of them had no previous experience on PCs, and I didn't know much about teaching people who were older than me.

    Age was always less of a factor in their learning than other more obvious factors like eyesight, typing experience, manual dexterity (for mousing), "visual literacy" (how quickly they could make sense of a screen full of information), motivation and fearlessness.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    The big picture, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 2:19pm

    Bill Gates born in 1955 maybe my math is failing me but dosent that make him over 55
    hang on Steve Jobs born 1955
    The over 50's invented computers as we know them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    lol, Jan 11th, 2007 @ 4:02pm

    See #10 on the "top 10 searches today" list on that site.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    weebit, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 12:08am

    number 10 will become number one. Looks like our older counter parts have a life after all. lol

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Amos, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 9:30am

    People over 50 on the Net

    The major breakthroughs in developing the internet were all developed by people who are now over fifty, guys and gals. Some of them WAY over. Most of us were paying attention at the time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    51, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 11:05am

    Um ...

    The internet was conceived, stbuilt and commercialized by people who are nearly all over 50 by now. The "2.0" generation (or whatever the moniker is) buys its music as electronic ephemera and has the nerve to call its predecessors ossified?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Gregg, Jan 12th, 2007 @ 8:18pm

    Why the bias?

    If any product is geared towards a particular market segment, is it because that market is too "inept" to use other tools? No, of course not, so why does this article assume that? (And why do all the comments focus on this assumption?)

    Granted, I looked at the search engine and I don't see any value over other search engines (they didn't even make the font bigger), but I also don't see anything that that make it "targeting...old people who can't figure out PCs." It's a search engine--you type in a search phrase, it gives you results.

    If those results are more relevant to its target audience is a question I can't answer, but this knee-jerk "oh, it's for old people so it must be crap" is just that--crap.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    Rose, Jan 13th, 2007 @ 11:00pm

    Seniors got class!

    My boyfriend and I have been teaching an Introduction to the Internet and an Introduction to the Computer, Email and Internet class for several years. We have a great deal of demand for it. Until this year, most of our class has been filled with seniors. The only problems any of them had were solved by the ability to change the screen resolution and the variety of mice available for use. They are our favorite students.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    When I get older......, Apr 15th, 2008 @ 8:49pm

    You'll be older too......

    Take a look on the subway(commuter R.R.)
    I-pods, cell phones,Laptops ALL USED by "OLD PEOPLE"
    Get used to it. The "baby boomers are here!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    When I get older......, Apr 15th, 2008 @ 8:49pm

    You'll be older too......

    Take a look on the subway(commuter R.R.)
    I-pods, cell phones,Laptops ALL USED by "OLD PEOPLE"
    Get used to it. The "baby boomers are here!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    lyn, Apr 27th, 2009 @ 8:21pm

    old people


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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