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Senior-Friendly Technology Trends at Consumer Electronics Show

Senior-Friendly Technology Trends at Consumer Electronics Show

Residents at Greenspring retirement community in Springfield, Va., have formed a bowling league based on the Nintendo Wii video game system.

Edward C. Baig, USA Today

Health issues forced Ted Campbell, 79, to give up real bowling in 1965. But Campbell, a resident of the Greenspring retirement community in Springfield, Va., bowls all the time now — on a Nintendo Wii video game system in a bowling league he organized at Greenspring.

Seniors like Campbell are helping dispel an age-old stereotype: that folks getting up in years have little or no interest in the latest technology. Video games, PCs, cellphones and such can help keep minds and bodies sharp. Tech companies are starting to pay closer attention to the mature market, and to folks with physical disabilities.

Silvers Summit

The topic of technology and aging took center stage last weekend at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. On Saturday, CES hosted the first Silvers Summit, a showcase for products and services dedicated to keeping aging Boomers engaged, entertained and healthy. The day-long exhibition featured speakers and/or product demonstrations from AARP, gaming giant Electronic Arts, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Microsoft and Qualcomm, among others. Sessions addressed everything from online dating after 50 to home monitoring of elderly relatives.

Search Scholarships

According to Forrester Research, U.S. adults 64 and older who bought technology in a recent three-month period spent an average $365 on consumer electronics products and $429 on computer hardware and peripherals. And Forrester points out that Americans 55 to 64 are more active in online finance, shopping and entertainment than those under 55.

EA says about a third of visitors to its puzzle, word and board game site are Boomers or older who say they play Pogo games to keep their minds sharp. Howard Byck, senior vice president of lifestyle products at AARP, says its own gaming area (Sudoku, Solitaire, etc.) is the most-visited part of He says 7 million Boomers without kids at home have video game systems.

At Greenspring, more than 200 people bowl on 30 teams in the Wii league, some bowling from electric carts, walkers or wheelchairs. Campbell reckons the average age is 82 or 83, the oldest a woman in her mid-90s. The biggest benefit is the social function, he says, and the opportunity “to do some exercise that they didn’t do before.”

And Mary Furlong, 60, a marketing consultant, says Boomers will never be seniors in the traditional sense. “Hell, no, they won’t go,” she says of Boomers trying to resist old age. “We text, we Skype, we Twitter,” says Furlong.

Subtle tweaks for ease of use

“It is absolutely a business opportunity,” says HP’s Michael Takemura, director of the company’s accessibility program, which develops products for people with disabilities and age-related limitations. Some of HP’s product designs are subtle. Notebooks have single rather than dual latches so they can be opened with one hand. Desktop displays have dual hinges that can be lowered to accommodate people with multifocal lenses.