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Technology Is Going Mobile – But Will Baby Boomers Follow?

Technology Is Going Mobile – But Will Baby Boomers Follow?

By Susan Williams

One of our children recently planned their vacation.

They searched, compared prices and booked their accommodations, flights and rental cars all from their smartphone.

I was amazed.

Once everything was booked and they were preparing to leave home on their trip, I asked if they had printed out all their boarding passes and travel confirmations.

They told me that they didn’t need them – they had their phone.

In typical parental fashion, I started to object. What if your phone doesn’t work, what if you lose your phone, what if… and then I stopped.

I realized that their view and use of technology and mine were completely different.

Here’s how…

#1 – Mobile Purchasing

When looking to make a purchase or go somewhere – I extensively search the internet on my laptop or tablet.

The idea of using my smartphone for any major investigation or purchase is just uncomfortable for me.

I often find the print too small to easily read and the site too difficult to navigate. Also, to actually make a purchase over my phone without the ability to print out my confirmation of purchase is just out of the question for me.

As it turns out, I’m not necessarily alone on this front.

In an AARP study conducted on baby boomers and seniors use of smartphones, of those that owned smartphones, only 44% would actually make a purchase through their devices.

#2 – Trust in Technology

Don’t get me wrong. I love technology. I just love how it can connect people, share information, allow you to research anything and purchase things online.

But I still have some concerns with it. 

Internet fraud, hackers, identity theft are all things that I am concerned about.

This is why when I am about to buy anything, if I do decide to purchase online I will only purchase from websites that I know and trust and only on my laptop. This way I can look for encryption indications that provide me some confidence that my data is protected.

I am also very leery of downloading apps onto my phone unless I know who is the originator.

My kids on the other hand are totally different.

To them, having another app on their smartphone is a daily occurrence. They communicate and manage their lives and schedules through so many different apps that it makes my head spin.

The major difference for us is our views on data and privacy. I want to know how my data is used and that it will be protected before I will provide anything online – mobile or otherwise.

My kids – not so much.

They often will accuse me of being too paranoid. And maybe I am. It’s not that my kids are out there ‘willy-nilly’ without any concern for their data but they definitely jump in much quicker than me and trust that nothing bad will happen.

Which leads me to my next point…

#3 – Comfort Level with Apps

I have a few apps on my smartphone. Maps, weather, a couple of games – are just a few examples of what I have on my phone. What I did notice when reviewing my apps, is that most of them are designed for me to retrieve information. I rarely share anything back to an app.

Maybe because it’s my lack of trust with the platform – or maybe because I have to grab my reading glasses every time I need to read something on my phone.

I love my smartphone and couldn’t imagine now living without it. It helps me stay connected to work, check my e-mails, communicate with friends and get immediate information. But it pretty much stops there.

My kids on the other hand are using apps for pretty much everything. Tracking their fitness, different apps to communicate with friends, recording life events – pretty much everything they do and need is somehow on their phones.

So, what do I think this means for mobile technology moving forward for boomers?

Health Apps and Technology

There are many, many apps being developed to help with health related issues. Apps to help with managing diabetes, apps to remind you to take your medications, apps to manage and report your heart rate are just some examples of how technology and healthcare is literally in the palm of your hand.

And this is great. We need to focus on prevention and many of these applications will help… but…

With an aging population being the ones really needing to accept and use these apps, and having only 38% access their phones for health and fitness information, there needs to be some credible and trusted healthcare endorsement that these apps are legitimate, tested and will actually contribute to an improvement in health.

I think that without it, there will be a slow acceptance of some of these applications along with a reluctance to use them.

Buying Things Through Mobile Devices

Maybe over time and as mobile sites become more user friendly, there will be a slow movement of online purchases by boomers to mobile devices. However…

Companies need to recognize that baby boomers do research and purchase products online and their preference is to actually see and touch a product before purchasing.

But companies should also be aware that one in four mobile shoppers is over the age of 55.

So this could possibly be a great growth opportunity.

However, I think it will come back again to the trust of the company and the ease of the transaction for a baby boomer.

If the mobile app was integrated with other purchase channel options (in store, website, mobile site and customer service), there may be something there worth looking at for a baby boomer.

Baby boomers are actively connected and using mobile technology.

In fact, 87.4% of baby boomers have a mobile device and 64.4% have smartphones.

But for organizations and companies that think we are going to use these devices like our kids, that is where there is a disconnect.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.
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