Tech Firms Find Gold in Silver

It’s tempting to think of seniors as a not particularly tech-savvy group and, in some cases, technology-adverse. But, as we all know, stereotypes often don’t jibe with reality.

As the digital age unfolds and computing tools and interfaces improve, a massive shift is taking place: Seniors are emerging as a valuable market niche.

The CEOs of IBM (Ginni Rometty) and Apple (Tim Cook)—shown in photo—recently announced a new partnership with Global Fortune 500 company Japan Post Group to transform the quality of life of Japan’s senior citizens. The partnership will provide millions of older Japanese citizens—who already make up a quarter of the country’s population—with iPads preloaded with a variety of quality-of-life apps that will make everyday tasks and functions easier by providing direct links to health care, family, community and local service providers.

The features and functions include an ability to set medication reminders, sign up for volunteer opportunities, shop for specialized services, and use Apple’s FaceTime to make video calls with family and friends. The iPads will also offer accessibility features for those with vision or hearing problems.

Japan Post Group plans to roll out the pilot service in the second half of this year. It aims for a broader deployment in 2016. The service will expand in stages, ultimately aiming to reach 4 million to 5 million Japanese citizens by 2020.

The goal, noted, Taizo Nishimuro, CEO of Japan Post Group, is “to bring our elderly generation into the connected world, expand our businesses by deepening relationships, and discover new ways to strengthen the fabric of our society and economy.”

Business and IT leaders should tune into this news. There are large and growing populations of the senior citizens around the world. In fact, the elderly population in Japan is projected to grow to 40 percent over the next 40 years.

Globally, the number will rise from 11.7 percent in 2013 to 21 percent by 2050. At that time, 64 countries will stand alongside Japan with seniors exceeding 30 percent of their total population.

These older citizens will require specific products and services, creating new and different business opportunities. In today’s youth-oriented culture, it’s tempting to view products and services through the lens of the young and the hip, and businesses should by no means ignore these segments.

However, as the partnership of IBM, Apple and Japan Post Group demonstrates, the boundaries of technology must continue to expand to encompass all population groups. Simply put: There’s gold in silver.


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