Business can click with silver surfers
The over 50s are one of the few demographics in society with money and yet advertisers fail to address them. “It’s not that marketers are age friendly,” says Gibney. “They’re not even age neutral.”
Timmins believes the marketing industry is getting wise to this though. “There is huge potential commercially in this community,” he says.
“There is an awareness and I think companies realise young people don’t have the money to buy computers while older people can afford to buy one.”
An example of this was the recent Nintendo Wii TV campaign which featured actors such as Helen Mirren and Patrick Stewart playing educational video games. “There are currently a lot of older people signing up to Facebook in the US,” says Timmons.
Even the commercial opportunities of IT training among older people don’t seem to be tapped into. “The opportunity for social enterprise models within skills development itself is the most obvious one,” says Gibney. “There is a need for IT skills training in older people and there would be lots of business opportunities there.”
Once an older user is online, however, the ease at which sites can be surfed is, according to Gibney, rarely taken into consideration by web designers.
“It’s amazing how little thought is put into this age group,” she says. “The characterisation of a new computer user is someone young and yet lots of new users are older people.
“When we go online, the ‘submit’ or ‘purchase’ or ‘cancel’ buttons, at the bottom of a page, will more than likely pop out to us. That’s not the case for older people. They tend to read from left to right every single word on the screen,” she says.
”They don’t make that leap to hit the right button immediately. So user design needs to respond to older users.
“But this will happen once we address the skills deficit and then we’ll see pressure from that age group to make online businesses improve their services. They are a group of consumers who we want online. They will improve the internet.
“Older web users are the most savvy of consumers. They’re not loyal, they’ll shop around because they have the time to do it, and they’ll have no problem complaining if they don’t get the product or service they expected.”
For more information on Google’s Age Engage Programme, see getyourfolksonline.ie
Age Action’s ‘Getting Started’ programme offers training, tel: 01-475 6989