New research to focus on how companies can cater mobile health technology to older generations

 In Medical Product Design

As we grow older, we become busier and more likely to try to consolidate the technology we use. That's a major problem for mobile health technology companies trying to market their products to older people.

"As people age, they're much less likely to spend time on mobile and tablet apps."

Research from comScore showed that as people age, they're much less likely to spend time on mobile and tablet apps. In fact, there's nearly a 50 percent drop off in monthly usage for people between​ 18-24  year olds and those aged 55-64.

The same statistics exist for wearable health technology, according to a Nielsen Connected Life Report. The age group most likely to use the hardware is between 25-34 years of age (40 percent). From there, the numbers drop dramatically: Twenty-two percent for the 35-44 age demographic, 17 percent for people between 45-54 years old and a mere 12 percent for those 55 years and older.

Researchers set out to study older generations
For companies to sell mobile health devices to this older market, they need to better understand it, and that's exactly what Sir Halley Stewart Trust and its partner charity Age UK Milton Keynes, plan to do with their OU project. Researchers will study how people aged 55 and older use mobile technology such as watches or wristbands to observe fitness measurements such as calorie counts, steps taken and heart rate, according to BusinessWeekly.

Shailey Minoach, professor of Learning Technologies and Social Computing and the leader of the Open University research team, said they also want to better understand how older generations use and think about the technology

"We also want to understand the difficulties – do older people have access to the technology to download the data from these devices?" Minoach said. "Are the displays so small that older people can't read them? Are the appearances of the devices acceptable to older people and are they designed to fit in with their lifestyle?"

BusinessWeekly did note the research will not involve studying specific devices because technology shifts so rapidly. However, it could be invaluable to companies that are looking to create and design wearable devices (and even applications) geared more toward an older audience.

Marla Lane Fox, a digital entrepreneur noted to the NHS National Information Board last year, according to BusinessWeekly, how devices can play a critical role in helping older people not only understand their health but solve major health problems.

" Research will help

companies better understand how older generations value


"In future, these devices will play an important role in older people's well-being," Fox said. "They could help to prevent strokes or help a doctor monitor someone to determine if they are fit enough to undergo chemotherapy, or if the patient is keeping themselves mobile enough for sustained recovery after a medical intervention."

At the moment, wearable health technology devices are geared toward a much younger audience, which makes them much less attractive to an older population. However, this research will help companies, including health professionals, better understand how older generations value technology that will help them better keep track of and care for their health.

"We want to try and understand what benefits these devices may bring in terms of helping older people to monitor their mobility, even improve their social interactions," Minocha said.

Based on current demographic statistics, mobile health technology isn't going anywhere. It still has entire generations of people to market to.


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