The need to have empathy as you design technology for older adults has never been greater than today. The growth in the number of older adults is unprecedented in the history of the United States. Two factors; longer life spans and aging baby boomers. These two factors will combine to double the population of Americans aged 65 years or older during the next 25 years to about 72 million. With increasing age comes the increased likelihood of having one or more disabilities. With that in mind the need for inventors and designers to have empathy has never been greater than today as they build the electronics and gadgets of the future.
With the popularity of immersive education on the horizon, it makes the most sense for inventors and designers to use ER – Empathy Reality so they can experience the same environment as their future potential customers with vision loss, hearing loss or whatever disability they may have.
When you take technology and tweak it to accommodate a person with a disability, this new technology is often called Assistive Technology, or simply AT. It is the AT that allows the blind to see the screen, the print impaired to read text, the deaf to hear the words spoken and sounds made, or the physically disabled to access their environment.
For decades persons with disabilities had to lag behind the mainstream and wait for laws to be passed in order to catch up, i.e. curb cuts, wider doorways, automatic doors, closed caption, and the list goes on… If you look at AT such as voice recognition and text to speech, persons with disabilities have actually been ahead of the curve for decades, and this time, waited for the mainstream to catch up.
The most amazing product for older adults today is the Amazon Echo as it takes your words spoken, and acts upon them. You talk to Alexa and it answers. Thanks to ER, electronics for older adults is now more accessible.
With ER you learn to have patience and be empathetic which allows you to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s shoes. While ER has allowed us to create new products, the next phase is to purchase ER from someone else and experience what they are doing.
Imagine if you could use ER and sit in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car as you drive around a NASCAR race. You could have the experience of your life! How much would you pay for that?
Or what if you could have used ER and experienced what Payton Manning experienced in his last game?
Or how about you use ER to experience what your mom and dad are doing right now. Imagine how much better you can help them.
We are only limited by our imagination or sense of purpose, and ER will allow us to have empathy as we build electronics and gadgets of the future.