I’ve previously written about my daughter, and the user challenges she faces with visual and dexterity impairments. This time, I’d like to focus on my dad, a pretty with-it 75 year old baby boomer. As with any kid dealing with their parents, and as a solid Gen-Xer, frustration sometimes gets the best of me, especially when it comes to technology.
Now my dad is not new to the tech world. He programmed computers in the 60’s with COBOL and Fortran, and he had a brand spanking new IBM PC-AT with 16K of RAM, a 5.25″ floppy drive and a whopping 20MB hard drive! We had a monochrome CRT monitor and a dot-matrix printer. It ran PC-DOS, Lotus 1-2-3, and had a 300/1200 baud modem. This was 1984 and it cost more than $2000. He was able to navigate the Parallel port and Serial ports, as well as the MDA (monochrome display adaptor) video port. This is not to brag; we were cool.
I lay this foundation to ask, where did it all go wrong? What about a VCR made scheduling a recording so challenging? How was he not able to record an outgoing message on his Answering Machine (beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep?) Being late to the CD party, and not even being at the DVD party are more understandable (his car doesn’t have a cassette deck any more). He was bale to navigate the change from DOS to Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, to Windows XP. Windows 2000, 8, and 10? Not so much.
What about phones? Wired, to cordless. Done. Cordless to candy bar cell, done. candy bar cell to flip phone, done. Palm, Blackberry, iphone? Ack!
Is it tech fatigue? Too much change in too short a period of time? That is what this study suggests. They determined that today’s smartphones, while potentially useful to seniors, are just too much! Older people keep in touch with fewer contacts, but still want to text, use a calendar, and set an alarm. The calendar was also important. By unbundling these apps, and making them more prominent, utility goes up dramatically. Here is an example of an interface for seniors.
Now if only I can teach him how to use his GPS.