Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

AARP study says over-50s excited about wearables but want them easier to use

Steve Rogerson
July 28, 2015
The over-50s are excited about wearable technology but say they lack features that would encourage long-tern use or adoption, according to a study by the Washington-based American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
The study of popular activity and sleep tracker use by the 50-plus population showed that consumers were excited about the potential benefits of sleep and activity trackers but said the design and utility lacked in features that would encourage long-term use or adoption. The gap between expectations and reality indicates a significant opportunity to serve the 50-plus market better.
Georgia Tech Research Institute’s HomeLab in partnership with the recently launched Project Catalyst: The Power of We initiative, a programme that encourages tech developers to design towards the 50-plus demographics’ desire for longevity and wellness, gave 92 older consumers one of seven popular devices to use at home for six weeks in their daily lives.
At the end of the six-week trial: 71 per cent of participants reported increased awareness of activity, sleep or eating habits; 45 per cent reported increased motivation; 46 per cent said they changed their behaviour; and 67 per cent reported the activity and sleep tracker to be beneficial or of value.
“Despite what some people may think, the study showed that consumers in the 50-plus age group enjoy interacting with technology when it provides them with constructive and usable feedback on their goals,” said Brad Fain, a director of Georgia Tech’s HomeLab and principal research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. “They are motivated to use new products that help them achieve good health and avoid illness – important findings as we seek to improve technology and make life easier for this underserved population.”
The study is the first of several health technology studies under the Project Catalyst initiative that the AARP will conduct and report on as part of its effort to accelerate innovation for aging Americans. With the support of MedStar Health, Pfizer and United Healthcare, this initiative seeks to identify ways to improve products and services for the over 50s, who are the largest consumers of healthcare.
With regard to how future activity and sleep trackers can be improved for consumers in the 50-plus age range, the study confirmed that the success of the next generation of trackers was directly correlated to their ease of use and their effectiveness. The results align with the mission of the AARP – to identify challenges and determine ways to improve the quality of life for people as they age.
“The recommendations that came out of the study are to make trackers better able to share information on health goals important to 50-plus consumers, simplify set up, make them unobtrusive to wear and easier to maintain, and provide more features like timely alerts and instantaneous access to information,” said Jody Holtzman, AARP senior vice president. “If these qualities are prioritised, the potential in the 50-plus market for activity and sleep trackers is likely to grow.”
Other recommendations from the study’s participants included:

  • Providing detailed, easy-to-understand instructions;
  • Providing an explanation of how activity and sleep trackers collect data;
  • Ensuring robust syncing capabilities;
  • Ensuring comfort while wearing the tracker;
  • Enabling timely notifications targeted to 50-plus consumers;
  • Providing a display for instant information access; and
  • Incorporating additional sensors related to health-specific conditions.
Project Catalyst is the latest in a series of efforts led by the AARP to encourage the development of products that can improve the quality of life for Americans as they age by raising awareness of the economic power of consumers who are 50-plus and conducting research about their wants and needs regarding innovative products. This influential demographic is comprised of over 100 million people responsible for at least $7.1tn in annual economic activity – a figure that is expected to reach well over $13.5tn in real terms by 2032.
The next Project Catalyst study is already underway at the Georgia Tech’s HomeLab and looks at medication management tools designed to help people take their medicine on time and as prescribed.
The AARP is a non-profit, nonpartisan organisation, with a membership of nearly 38 million, that aims to help people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthen communities, and fight for the issues that matter most to families such as healthcare, employment and income security, retirement planning, affordable utilities and protection from financial abuse.