Skip to main content

Innovative Design, Education May Lead Baby Boomers to Embrace In-Home Technology

Print PagePrint Page


By Brent Shafer and Bill Novelli*

Where do you want to live as you age? For most of us, the answer is, “In my home.” In fact, 90 percent of Americans between the ages of 50 and 80 years old—a majority of which are baby boomers—have this desire.

At Philips and the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, we believe technology will help achieve this goal. However, according to our research (http://goo.gl/jlMlqt), many older Americans are not planning to take advantage of advances in technology to help them age independently.

Baby Boomers Not Embracing In-Home Technology

Today, a technology-capable home will have security systems, automated thermostats and Wi-Fi—services familiar to many of us. However, many American baby boomers don’t use these technologies in their homes. While more than half have Wi-Fi in their residence, only 21 percent have security systems and 27 percent use automated thermostats. Surprisingly, 12 percent admitted to not having at least one form of technology in their home.

Given some of the challenges that come with aging, such as decreased mobility and dementia, it’s concerning that baby boomers are effectively choosing not to better equip themselves with tools that can improve and simplify their everyday lives. Nearly 80 percent of 60 to 80 year olds are not thinking about, or are not sure, whether they will update or upgrade their homes to aid aging in place.

Twelve percent of baby boomers have no technology in their home.

Clearly baby boomers have an aversion to adopting tech, which stems from reasons, such as perceived high cost, the complexity of integrating technology into the home and concerns about finding a reliable contractor for tech installation. This cohort is not considering the potential benefits of using technology to maintain independence for as long as possible, as well as alleviate stress and pain points.

Identifying Barriers to Tech Adoption

Philips and GSEI are busy identifying and breaking down these barriers to using technology to enable people to age independently. As this relationship continues, we hope to bridge the gap between the promise of innovative technology and its perceived benefit to its users. Through studies and roundtables with industry leaders, we learned people need better education about how to use technology to live independently.

So how can we implement change without alienating the aging population? The answer lies in how we design, educate and market technology advancements for baby boomers to use as caregivers and for themselves as they age.

The more people who adopt technology, the less expensive it will be.

By harnessing connected technologies, we can ease the learning curve for baby boomer users and simplify their lives, at the same time creating a desire to adopt new technology and tools. Great new technologies are available, such as home health monitors that sends vital sign measurements to a doctor or light bulbs that change color to remind people to take medication, but there are so many more applications that we envision for the future.

As this education, use and eventual acceptance unfolds, it will spark wider adoption and create demand from people of all ages, which will not only make technology more mainstream and commonplace, but also drive down its cost—a major concern for aging baby boomers.

It’s easy for us to imagine a future where a grandparent is as technologically competent as is his or her grandchild. However, we aren’t there yet. Let’s work together to bring these smart technologies into our lives.

Brent Shafer is CEO of Philips North America, in Andover, Mass. Bill Novelli is a professor in theMcDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., and leads Georgetown’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative. He also is co-chair of the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care and, from 2001 to 2009,served as CEO of AARP.