The value of the Internet for seniors isn’t in booking a Doctors appointment – but it might be in avoiding the need for one OR actually having one…



Age UK (the charity formed from Age Concern and Help the Aged) has received an award of £100,000 from Google for making it to the final 6 in the Global Impact Challenge that is designed to support British non-profits to use tech to tackle tough problems.

Age UK have estimated that 1 million older people in the UK have not seen friends or family in over a month and they will be committing the resources to using technology to help reduce loneliness by providing access to “invaluable online resources, as well as the ability to keep in touch with family and friends“.

I think this is a great cause but I think it’s very outdated approach in 2013 when one of the best selling mobiles in the UK is a 3G mobile that is specially designed for senior citizens.

Isn’t it obvious that we now have better tools than the internet if the problem we’re trying to tackle is loneliness and the problem is as tragic as Age UK are claiming it to be (although I personally find it very hard to believe David Mortimer’s claim that there are a million older people in the UK who have not seen a single friend or family member in over a month).

My thoughts:

Learning about technology can seem completely overwhelming but having learnt it it brings people closer together

As a voice over read the above quote the following images were shared with viewers and for me they highlight a fundamental problem that a lot of people have because they haven’t yet appreciated that the last mass media is the PC/Internet and there is now Mobile (the newest mass media):

AGE UK Senior using IT hardware that has been not designed for the job

It should be obvious that none of this retrofit technology has been designed for the purpose that the senior here is trying to use it for:

Age UK senior using out of date hardware to make Skype Call

Don’t get me started on the uncomfortable furniture or the opportunity for IT tutor’s to lead by example and retire the pen and paper…

AGE UK Image Senior using PC on writing desk

I think there is so much to do because seniors have been so left behind by technology that AGE UK’s focus would be much more effective if it addressed the ‘communication’ rather than the ‘technology’ problem.

After the Nokia decade it should be clear if you want to bring people together you forget about the Internet and you look to the world’s most pervasive and available digital communication technology: SMS.

Just as it should be obvious that a 9 year old grandson doesn’t want to sit inside on a summer day emailing his nan. His grandmother equally doesn’t want to be leaving her PC powered up for 15 hours of the day just incase her grandson emails her.

the government is about to put a wave of new services online which will mean that just making a simple Doctors appointment they won’t be able to do that. Many older people don’t feel they need to be online and unfortunately that’s just not true

I’m very surprised that AGE UK’s Paul McKenzie is prepared to state that it isn’t true that some older people don’t feel a need to be online. I would love to introduce Paul to some seniors here who would laugh him out of the room if he even attempted to convince them that they themselves needed to be online.

I also think fear is a particularly bad way to sell the online opportunity (eg. the governments doing this and if you don’t learn this IT trick you’ll never be able to book a Doctor appointment) not least of all because it won’t happen because as a Doctor you’re going to get struck off within a week if you even tried to emulate 1% of Ryanair’s booking system…

Perhaps I’m way out of touch but I also really can’t imagine many seniors are going to be excited about having to learn IT skills so that they can start doing the work of the receptionist at their Doctors office…

What would I do?

Instead of teaching seniors to use PC’s I’d give them Mobiles that are designed to meet their needs

With the Global Impact Award AGE UK will reach out to 16,000 older people across 25 locations for 18 months and we’ll also create a program that will be a lasting legacy helping thousands of older people. We can give them the digital skills they need to live a vibrant life in the modern world

I think this really highlights the unimaginable disruption that mobile is making on the world and IT adoption by seniors. For the £500,000 AGE UK would spend on training 16,000 seniors they could give away (at retail price!) 10,000 of the latest designed for senior 3G CameraPhones from Doro. Works straight out of the box. No training required.

TopTip: Help your loved ones go Mobile and get them using SMS today.

Tesco Selling Doro 3G CameraPhone

Focus on the Fun

What’s wrong with telling seniors about all the fun they could have checking out grandchildren on Facebook? Why aren’t AGE UK educating GPs about the opportunities they have to Video Consult with seniors who already have the ability with their own iPads (“My mother is 93 years old and has an iPad. She wants to know why she can’t FaceTime the practice nurse. So do I”)?

Sir Stirling Moss 3G Video Calling 3G Doctor Dr Fiona Kavanagh

The technology is here it’s now time to focus on being creative

This recent post of mine sums up some of the challenges faced because plastic mobile phones are unfamiliar to seniors:

A personalised casing on a seniors mobile

“Mobile Mobile Mobile…”

I hope the Mobile First focus that’s taken Google to the top of the Mobile market with the Android OS and it’s massive mAdvertising windfall will now infect Age UK.

I also hope they look to the USA where the AARP model should provide ideas eg. they are already working with telcos to create Senior Mobile plans, have a pavilion at the mHealth Summit, are working with a mobile industry giant to bring a new Designed for Senior Smartphone to market via their members, etc.

What do you think?

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2 Responses to The value of the Internet for seniors isn’t in booking a Doctors appointment – but it might be in avoiding the need for one OR actually having one…

  1. Norman Lilly says:

    Interesting, probably agree, but as an IT trainer for Low Vision and Blind people, in the majority of cases its the complexity of the technology. The result is welcome, but the route to get there is too complex. So Respexi is also an answer, because it changes the way that the communication is made buy utilising the touch screen and simple pictures with text, it can also read everything aloud if required! its a family thing!

  2. Hi Norman,

    I see natural language speech control having a disruptive impact on the area you are focused on. Here’s a talk I recently gave on the subject at the Nuance Global Healthcare Partner Meeting in Lisbon:

    https://mhealthinsight.com/2013/06/17/mhealth-beyond-the-beep-nuance-healthcare-partner-event/

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