This past weekend,on Sunday Morning With Charles Osgood on how industries from drugstore chains to auto manufacturers are taking the ever-expanding senior population into account when designing their markets and products. The transcript of her report was put online earlier this week.
Companies are looking for ways to market to the retiring Boomer population without either patronizing them with references to their age or mobility or turning off younger consumers with an over spin toward seniors and retirees. According to Ms. Braver’s report, achieving these goals with the products and presentations has proven easier than the marketing of those products and presentations.
“We’re not the first generation to get old, but we’re the first generation to have greater expectation that old age could be better,” said Professor Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT’s Age Lab. “Technology has helped us live longer; now we want to live better.” To do so, the lab has developed “Agnes,” a suit designed to transform someone into a 75-year-old suffering from arthritis through the use of bands and weights and motion-limiting braces.
The suit has helped its wearers consider issues like designs of shelves in supermarkets and of bucket seats in cars. The trick is to offer access and opportunity for retirees while not calling attention to the adjustments.
Professor Coughlin calls it “coded language” – marketers using words like ‘smart,’ ‘universal design,’ ‘comfortable to use’ etc. as means to reach out to older populations without driving away the younger: “Yeah, business doesn’t want to use the ‘O’ word, or the ‘A’ (of ‘age’) word either,” he said. “Smart is the new young for us old folks.”
includes links to the MIT lab where Professor Coughlin and his colleagues work, to the R&D offices at Ford developing smarter cars, and to GE, who is also developing lighting and health-monitoring equipment to enrich the lives of not only Baby Boomers, but of anyone interested in the technological opportunities of life.
Written by: Christopher Gardner, PhD
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