America in the 21st-century has begun changing in two fundamental ways: we’re getting older, and we’re going digital. The first of those two facts is due to a large generation of aging baby boomers and is already being characterized by increasing demands on welfare and healthcare services and a simultaneous loss of expertise in both fields. The second is typified by the personalization of consumer services and a communication revolution.
Those two elements intersect in a lot of different ways, but one of the most fundamental is how an aging population communicates with the world around it. Adopting digital means of communication has potentially profound implications for how seniors interact with their peers, families, and support networks, as well as how they access consumer and professional services.
Video chat, for example, is both a means of staying in touch with relatives as well as a conduit for accessing healthcare and support services. Considering this potential, the best video calling for seniors is more than just a platform for social interaction, it is the hub of an entire world of communication.
Growing Old in a Digital Age
There is no denying that the U.S.–along with many other countries in the world–is aging. By 2030, one in five people in the U.S. will be older than 65. In 2010, that percentage was 13 percent, and in 1970 it was 10 percent–half of where it currently sits.
Nearly 75% of people over the age of 65 regularly access the internet.
The problems that come with an aging population are now well documented–we’ve even discussed the issue several times here on VC Daily. An increasing number of older adults is producing shortages in critical areas like education, where those aging out of the industry outnumber new professionals entering the field, and in healthcare, where that same problem is made worse by more and more seniors in need of aging-related care.
This collectively aging population is simultaneously learning a whole new way of communicating. More than 90% of the adult population regularly use the internet and many are smartphone-only communicators, even when at home. Those usage figures dip among older Americans but are still higher than the stereotype of the out-of-touch senior may have you believe–nearly 75% of people over the age of 65 regularly access the internet.
Seniors are predominantly and increasingly digitally adept, and they need video calling solutions that provide more than just an opportunity to Skype their grandchildren.
Video Calling for Seniors
Naturally, when such a large demographic is in play, there are video conferencing products available that specifically target older consumers. One typical offering is Bloom, a Google-backed platform that makes it easier for seniors to connect to the digital world.
Bloom addresses its senior market by making video calling straightforward. It is touchscreen- and voice command-powered and has an intuitive, always-on interface that presents professional and social contacts as large icons on permanent display. It also comes with a digital wristband that alerts potential callers when the owner is near their device, making it easier to make–and receive–an impromptu call. It is smartphone compatible and acts as a ready connection to loved ones and even to healthcare services.
What really limits Bloom’s appeal is that doesn’t do anything other than make and take video calls.
The central idea behind Bloom is that seniors have trouble physically accessing mobile or desktop solutions and that they are predominantly homebound. These facts may be true in some cases, but they shouldn’t be the guiding light for designing a video calling service for seniors. What really limits Bloom’s appeal is that doesn’t do anything other than make and take video calls. That limited functionality is what prevents Bloom from being a rich and versatile senior video calling solution. The same is true of other video calling devices for seniors such as the GrandPad and Konnekt Videophone.
What seniors need is a video calling platform that doubles as a communications hub, with a secondary emphasis on accessibility.
Facebook, Amazon, and Google Understand
The latest video conferencing devices from three of the “Big 5” tech companies offer far more than a basic video calling experience, while still emphasizing accessibility.
The Amazon Echo Show, Facebook Portal, and new entrant Google Nest all act as video conferencing platforms without neglecting the rest of the internet’s possibilities. Each is presented as a standalone, always-on device that is intended to be positioned in a central area of the home. They act as voice-activated, facial recognition-enabled, touchscreen tablets with dedicated video calling functions.
The best video calling for seniors shouldn’t limit their options for fear of overwhelming them.
And they are connected to more than just a list of pre-programmed contacts. These devices offer the latest mix of accessibility, automated camera movements, and personalized connections to all the resources the web has to offer. They can be used to access healthcare and social support networks, as well as the full range of consumer services that seniors require just as urgently as the rest of the population.
The intuitive design that is supposed to allow anyone to combine their real world and online lives in order to make both easier should be of even greater appeal to seniors who may have mobility and health concerns.
The best video calling for seniors shouldn’t limit their options for fear of overwhelming them. It should open up the entire gamut of digital resources that this particular generation, more than any other, is likely to require.