Four Aging and Health Technology Blog Posts from September, 2021

september20image 0September 2021 – it got away. But much happened during the month, including the release of the 2021 Linkage technology survey of older adults, rarely fielded and so their tech behavior is poorly understood. Meanwhile, September was a month to consider the business practices of social media monopolist, Facebook – in print (WSJ, Washington Post), on 60 minutes, and as some might say, blah, blah, blah. Will regulation happen? Will people seek a new platform, search for other online photo sites, find an offline hobby, go outside? At this moment, investors doubt anything will change, despite plenty of posturing. Here are the four posts:

The more tech changes – A decade of older adult tech surveys. Few of the oldest are ever surveyed about tech adoption – least of all using paper. Link-Age Connect has surveyed the oldest about tech use since 2011, with periodic surveys fielded to older adults via their member organizations. In 2011, that represented 122,000 residents drawn from its member communities across 22 states. The member communities in 2011 distributed 5000 paper surveys and got back 1789 completed, a 35% response rate. Many were completed with assistance for people with limited vision or mobility. All were transcribed for analysis and use in the published report, Technology Survey Age 65 to 100, Extending Technology Past the Boomers. In 2011, 71% of the responders were older than aged 75. Read more.

Shining a harsh light on Facebook – the company. Founded by a near-teenager in 2004, the company is a social networking monopoly, with 91% of revenue in that market that includes messaging (What’s App, Facebook Messenger). It also owns Instagram (one-quarter of its 2019 revenue). With 1.84 billion daily users, it is top of mind for marketers – and some 200 million small businesses reach their customers nearly exclusively through its platform. It is a regular news source, though ironically not trusted for political news. The news about Facebook is more compelling than the news from Facebook – including this week’s Wall Street Journal reports of Facebook applying different rules to a select subset (5.8 million) of its users, including allowing them posts that include harassment, inciting to violence or other bad behavior. Who uses Facebook? Well, most people, according to Pew: Facebook is used by 77% of US women, versus 61% of US men, with women aged 25-34 representing the biggest user group. Older adult usage of Facebook has dropped from 62% of the 65+ in 2016 to 50% in 2021. But that could be the result of family migration to Instagram for photo sharing. Read more.

Once upon a time, there were photo albums. You know, the kind that have leather-like binders, with plastic covers for the prints. People would buy extra prints for their friends and relatives after a big event like a wedding (remember wedding albums?). Binders would fill bookshelves (remember bookshelves? They once held books). Then along came Facebook so that families could keep up with each other’s kid and dog photos. A study in 2013 noted that this was a bit worrisome — “people don’t relate well to those constantly sharing photos of themselves.” How quaint. It turns out that populations don’t relate well to sharing of political slams, holocaust denials and incitement of riots and genocide. Not to worry, though. Defensive in the face of the WSJ series, though, Facebook insists things are under control. Read more.

AI – it’s everywhere, including tech for older adults. So what is AI? Artificial intelligence (AI) is a wide-ranging branch of computer science concerned with building smart machines capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI can use machine learning based on large data sets, and has a number of well-known applications, including recommendations from Netflix, Siri and Alexa, bots and robo-advisors. AI plays an increasing role in healthcare, including the growing use of chatbot tools used by patients. In addition, there are multiple examples of use in the care of older adults. In some cases, these are the result of partnerships, in others from product development. Read more.

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