Don’t be fooled by her age or her not-so-smart flip phone. Betty Lou Luce is spurring a technology movement that is spreading from bridge clubs to retirement homes across Southern California.
Thanks to a phone service called GoGoGrandparent (started by her grandson, Justin Boogaard), Luce is defying the stereotypes associated with older adults, using the same on-demand mobile apps as smartphone-savvy millennials and boomers. The Torrance, Calif., 85-year-old takes Uber rides and gets meals and groceries delivered by trendy apps such as Munchery, Postmates and Instacart.
The hot line service uses a custom-built, automated system to manage all Uber ride requests. For now, everything else gets routed to a human operator who places orders on behalf of callers.
Fully 70 percent of Americans ages 65 and older do not own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. Yet older adults, 78 percent of whom do have access to old-fashioned cellphones, can benefit from speedy delivery and ride services just as much, if not more so, than younger adults.
“Technology is really critical for older people, especially in terms of help and assistance,” said Dilip Jeste, senior associate dean for healthy aging and senior care at the University of California at San Diego.
Yet seniors are often overlooked by technology companies. “That’s a mistake,” Jeste said.
And not just because there is a need for tools to assist the increasing population of elderly folks who prefer “aging in place,” meaning older people remain in their homes with support. There’s a real financial incentive as well.
Laurie Orlov, founder of the Aging in Place Technology Watch and a former analyst at Forrester Research, estimates that the senior tech market will become a $20 billion industry by 2020. Semico Research, meanwhile, forecasts that companies creating technologies that support the stay-at-home movement will generate more than $30 billion in revenue by 2017.