Making Technology Age Friendly

August 14, 2020

Here at Spritely we get asked all the time “what makes technology age friendly?” There is never one thing, nor one feature that makes something age friendly; our users suggest new things every week.

Age-friendly technology is less about specific features and more about putting seniors at the centre of the design process. Listening to users every step of the way, understanding their ideas and building them into the product. That’s how we create age-friendly technology.

Seniors and Selfies

It should be noted that not all older people are scared of technology. Plenty of our residents love a good selfie and we know plenty of seniors with long careers in the technology industry.

A few years ago, Spark conducted an online survey of people aged over 55 and found that 70% of respondents felt confident using technology. Even so, you don’t have to be a statistician to realise conducting this kind of survey online creates a rather biased result.

Access and Inclusion

There are a large number of older people that avoid going online at all. Research from AUT published in 2018 found that 25% of people aged 75-84 and 50% of people over the age of 85 have never been online.

Many of these non-internet users stand to benefit the most from using the internet, but for a number of reasons they don’t want to go online. A report by Dr Margaret Richardson from Waikato University found 3 main reasons for this:

  • Perceived lack of relevance, usefulness or interest in the technology
  • Unwillingness to commit resources to acquiring or learning how to use the technology
  • Risks and complexities associated with the internet, including safety, scams and viruses.

When we developed Spritely, we made sure to address all these issues and now 60% of our users engage with the technology on a daily basis.

Relevant and Useful

Spritely is a daily source of news, weather and information about the village. It also provides useful reminders for medication and upcoming calendar events. Residents also appreciate the ability to manage their own health and keep a daily digital health diary.

Spritely is also very useful as the primary means of communication between management and residents, replacing the need to produce and deliver paper flyers to every door, which is expensive and cumbersome.

60% of our users engage with the technology on a daily basis.

Simple and Intuitive

Spritely is very easy to use. In fact, it requires no previous experience with technology. To make our technology as easy as possible we often use the example of a piano. Whether you’re 85 and have never played or you’re 7 and have never seen a piano, you just sit down, lift the lid and make it work with a single tap.

A piano is highly intuitive – getting the piano to make a sound requires no previous knowledge or experience of pianos.

Compare that to old rotary telephones. These things are about as far from intuitive as you can get.

If you don’t believe me check out this video clip challenging two teenagers to dial a number using an old rotary telephone.

Safe and Secure

Spritely isn’t an app that you download from an app store. It’s a preconfigured tablet which is delivered ready to go. The tablet only runs Spritely and doesn’t replace any technology people currently use for other things like banking and social media. That means it works and has full functionality right of the box. This makes it extremely safe, removing one of the key constraints preventing older people from using the internet.

Spritely is age-friendly because it’s relevant and useful, no previous experience is needed to make it work and we remove a lot of risks by locking the device into kiosk mode.

Engage and Listen

To make our technology age friendly, the most important thing we do is listen to our users. We frequently engage residents in feedback sessions at retirement villages that use Spritely.

During one session, focused on our new Activity booking module, residents said that we should allocate places for oversubscribed activities, based on people’s attendance record.

They thought people with a history of turning up should get priority over people with a history of not turning up. And to the delight of our users, that’s exactly what we built.

Within 5 days of launching our new Activities module, residents had made nearly 5,000 bookings via the Spritely tablet. Retirement village staff no longer need to do the bookings, which saves a huge amount of time every month. And there has been a marked improvement in attendance.

Innovate and Lead

Retirement village operators scanning the market for innovative new technologies should prioritise age-friendly solutions that put residents at the centre. Empowering residents with age-friendly technology significantly reduces village overheads and increases resident satisfaction.

Get in touch if you want to talk to Spritely about everything we’ve learned developing New Zealand’s leading age-friendly touchscreen technology for retirement villages.