05 December 2009

Microsoft & AARP Study: Boomers & Tech II

A colleague mildly chastised Yours Truly for being a bit rough on the ‘new’ Microsoft/AARP study:

I think the guy offered some thought-provoking possibilities about how we might adopt and adapt some technologies in the future: nothing earth-shattering, but slightly value-added.

Colleague correct.  Anybody interested should download the study.  It’s worth a read.

The article/press release on the AARP site.

What I said about it all:

AARP & Microsoft: Technology & Baby Boomers
image … Let’s see how some of their findings stack up to what NostraChuckus has been prophesying for years …  NostraChuckus predicts that in a future post he will predict what they’re probably wrong about.

As the almost errorless Soothsayer predicted, here it is. 


image Digital Fitness. Boomers will wear sensor-equipped exercise clothing to keep track of their physical condition during workouts, their calories burned—and  upload it all to an online record. Even their running shoes will contain sensors and GPS to provide additional data. Their mobile devices may even be set to (gently) remind them when they're falling behind on their exercise routines.

I wonder if most of the above won’t get tired fast.  How biofeedback-onic do you really want to be while taking a walk in the woods or playing some doubles?    

And beepers going off to tell you you’re a lazybones?  It sounds like fun once or twice, but pretty soon some sweats or tennis attaire will be all you’ll put on.  Being wired like a android and having to perform at specific levels every minute while you’re ‘playing’ could cause a slew of new anxiety afflictions.   

Of course, there will always be a few obsessive-compulsives.


Chip Me, Doc. Once Boomers are confident about security and privacy, they will be early adopters of electronic health records—many would even choose to have them implanted as tiny chips. And they'll start keeping their own records online, using digital diagnostic devices to upload their weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, even the results of a mini-EKG.

Is this news?  Already Boomers are all over Web MD and scores of other medical sites. I belong to one where I can keep track of the few drugs I take and lets me know of any contraindications.  (And, interestingly enough, the site offers to transfer my ‘medical history’ to Microsoft’s HealthVault.)

Actually, it’s doctors, hospital administrators, and generally anybody involved in the medical industry that are pushing for computerized records.  All generations will be beneficiaries (or have their privacy compromised – depending on your point of view).


Social Networks. For boomers, social networks will become as commonplace as the telephone—particularly to link them into the lives of their children and grandchildren in a way that's unobtrusive yet meaningful. And personal videoconferencing will be commonplace: High-definition video cameras on the big screen in the living room will enable regular family-to-family chats.

I guess I’m confused.  What is a ‘social network’?  This sounds to me like ‘calling grandma and grandpa’ forty years ago, where we all passed the phone around.  How is that social networking?

And didn’t I blog about this in 2006? The ‘high-definition’ part is new.  That’s about it.


image Video-Game Fever. Boomers will become video-game aficionados, primarily using motion-sensing video game consoles rather than old-fashioned game controllers.

Confused again. Won’t everybody be using “motion-sensing consoles rather than old-fashioned game controllers”? What exactly is the startling prediction here? 

No mention of brain games.  My guess is that Boomers will continue to play cutting-edge video games, but most will want to exercise their gray matter when doing so.  Sure, they’ll play virtual tennis – but for some reason I bet they’ll prefer real tennis.  Wriggling, twisting, and swinging your arms around in front of some newfangled contraption can be diverting – but spending your entire life entangled in virtual reality just doesn’t seem like much of a life to me. 

image And it could be embarrassing.  It’s a mark of honor to sustain a sports injury, but I’d feel rather silly if I were limping about and had to tell everyone, “I fell over while Wii-ing …”   


Employment, Boomer Style. Boomers who are past the 9-to-5 routine but still working part-time will become the masters of tele-presence: videoconferencing with HD and surround sound.

Again – this probably will be standard-issue business practice for all generations.  Variations have been ‘foretold’ by numerous futurists.


Parents. Boomers will lead the aging-in-place movement with their own parents, wiring their parents' homes with smart sensors that monitor motion, power usage, average conversation levels and footstep patterns, and that send regular updates that all is well—or suggest the boomer check in to make sure the parents are OK.

Some monitoring will take place (it is taking place) but keeping track of every burp and twitch … I’m not so sure.


imageHome, Green Home. The boomer dream home will have a full solar roof, plus energy monitoring that lets residents tailor their usage to maximum efficiency. Domestic robots will be increasingly common appliances, and in new homes, designers will make kitchens and floor plans "robot-friendly."

Key phrase: dream house. It sounds good.  Let’s hope all this will someday be available and affordable for everybody.  Microsoft, of course, has been pushing this stuff since 2000.

Maybe I expected fresher insights from two influential  corporate forces.

Update Dec 9 2009 Great post from Laurie Orlov (even if she does join in to chastise me a bit):

What Boomers Want from Technology 2009 and other aging theories


  1. You look at this study through the eyes of someone who has been jaded by futurists and prognosticators over the years. Yet some of the conclusions are sound, I think. Boomers will continue to adopt technology and don't want to fall behind. They will demand ease of use and identity security from developers and manufacturers. Marketers and advertisers should probably take this into account! http://techandboomers.blogspot.com

  2. Esther's site made clickable:


    I don't completely disagree with you, Esther. Maybe you should check out my first post about the study:

    AARP & Microsoft:Technology & Baby Boomers

    My major beef with the study is that there's not much new in it - and what's new is a bit suspect.

  3. Boomers will continue to adopt new technology? As if that's an earth-shattering insight, a paradigm shift?

    In our respective books published five and six years ago, NostraChuckus and I predicted Boomers would keep adopting and adapting. Here's what I had to say way back then:

    "Slide rules beget the handheld calculator. Calculators beget the TRS 88. The TRS 88 beget the IBM PC and Apple computer. Rudimentary personal computers beget the screaming-fast desktop supercomputers of today.

    "Along their way to technology nirvana, Baby Boomers have discovered and adopted push-button telephones, answering machines, cordless telephones, VCRs, ATMs, cable television, compact disc players, microwave ovens, photocopy machines, faxes, cellular telephones, DVD players, personal data assistants, email and the Internet. Except for the few Luddites among us, Boomers have not had too much difficulty adopting new technologies and taking them in stride.

    "The digital communication revolution is also a Boomer revolution."

    There's not much new in the Microsoft/AARP study, other than some very large brand stamps on the obvious.

    As Chuck noted, they failed to address brain training games. They didn't explore the coming explosion in biometric, social, and intellectual measurements that will become mainstay in Continuing Care Retirement Communities. Groundbreaking work is being done right now through the Geropscyh program at the University of Colorado.

    Next time perhaps Microsoft/AARP will engage advisors who really stay on top of the trends.