Shirley Curry is known to the online universe as the Gaming Grandma. She is an 80-year-old widow from Virginia who spends hours every day in front of her computer, much of the time playing the video game Skyrim. She has what’s been described as a huge cult following on YouTube, where people tune in in droves to watch her play and hear her running commentary. YouTube gaming channels bring in more than 3.5 billion views each month.
In addition to being a YouTube star at age 80, Grandma Shirley tweets, Instagrams, Facebooks, emails, and is actually pretty much adored by the fine folks at Reddit, who are generally not known for their adoring ways.
I think it is really weird. There are a lot of older gamers on YouTube, but I just happened to use my real picture and was open about telling my age.
— Shirley Curry
No two ways about it: Grandma Shirley is a rock star. But even she has a problem with that. By making such a big deal about an older person just because they know their way around the digital world, it underscores the stereotype that most don’t. And that’s not true, says Grandma Shirley.
‘Gaming Grandma’ Takes on Internet Ageism
We’ve seen them in movies for years: The bumbling, out-of-touch older person at the office who just can’t figure out how to turn on a computer or send a text. Contrary to this pervasive stereotype, a recent Dropbox survey of more than 4,000 IT workers found that people over age 55 are actually less likely than their younger colleagues to find using tech in the workplace stressful.
On average, people 55 and up used 4.9 forms of technology per week, compared to the overall average of 4.7 per week, the survey found. Only 13% of respondents aged 55 and older reported having trouble working with multiple devices, compared to 37% of 18-to-34-year olds.
Despite their evident tech skills, workers in all age groups tended to believe that older workers were slower to adopt new technology, with 59% of 18-34 year olds reporting feeling this way.
“It’s dangerous for companies to assume that if you’re under 35, you’re tech savvy,” said Paul Bernard, an executive coach and regular contributor to Next Avenue, a website for 50-plus-year-olds. “In many cases, I’ve seen that many older people are able to combine tech-savvy with communication skills—almost without exception, it’s easier for older workers to pick up more tech skills than younger workers, who are tech savvy, to pick up communication skills.”
Myth busted: Older workers are just as tech-savvy as younger ones, says new survey
The smart home of the future could be a wee bit smarter with the addition of the Alexa-powered connected intercom system Nucleus announced last week.
The Nucleus intercom, which last fall made its debut without Alexa, is a tablet that connects to a home network through WiFi or Ethernet to allow family members to communicate with each other both inside and outside the home.
The inclusion of Amazon’s Alexa technology in the US$250 Nucleus lets it understand voice commands. For example, users can ask it to play music from services like Amazon Prime Music, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. They also can call up the latest weather report by saying, “Alexa, what’s the weather?” or add an item to a list, for example, “Alexa, add milk to my shopping list.”
The Nucleus intercom has an 8-inch touchscreen with 1280 x 800 resolution, a 5-MP camera with a wide 120-degree viewing angle, a microphone for two-way conversations, and stereo speakers for streaming music.
It can be paired with a smartphone through an iOS or Android app.
The promotional material for Nucleus suggests a potential target market for the intercom, observed LSA’s Sterling.
“The reason that multiple generations are featured in its promotional video is that this may be an easier solution for older adults and grandparents than navigating Hangouts, FaceTime or Skype,” he said.
“The appeal for this might be in connecting remotely with people who are technically challenged,” said ABI’s Collins. “They can go to a simple device for a simple application.”
Nucleus Home Intercom Gets Alexa Advantage
Across the US, caregivers are turning to apps, devices and websites, collectively known as “age tech,” to do everything from manage medications to coordinate care. This includes technology designed specifically for older family members, like a medical alert necklace, as well as devices like iPads.
Though adoption of this technology has been slow, the market is huge and getting bigger. More than 34 million American adults provide unpaid care to someone 50 or older, according to a survey conducted last year by the National Alliance for Caregiving. And the US Census Bureau says the number of people who need care will only grow: By 2060, the 65 and older age group will more than double, to 98 million people (from 46 million in 2014).
Technology companies are rushing to meet what they see as a growing demand, and investors are paying attention. Funding for companies making health-care products for people aged 50 or older has more than quadrupled over the last several years, to nearly $2 billion last year from $425 million in 2010, according to StartUp Health, an investment firm.
“The economic power of the 50-plus market is almost half of the US economy,” said Stephen Johnston, co-founder of Aging 2.0, a tech company that connects entrepreneurs with the elder-care industry. Johnston estimates that the number of age-related startups tripled in the past three years.
At an Aging 2.0 Expo in November, hundreds of senior-care products were on display. There were sensors that alert caregivers to the activity of Alzheimer’s patients, an employment website for caregivers and a full-body suit that simulates the physical experience of aging to help people better understand what it feels like and encourage them to make plans for growing old.
Tech can help the elderly…if they use it
Here’s a 5-minute segment from the 2016 Next@Acer Global Press Conference. It talks about the Grandpad, a tablet designed for seniors in the 75+ age group, starting at around the 11:00 mark.
YouTube: 2016 Next@Acer Global Press Conference
From the Grandpad website:
Each grandPad tablet comes pre-loaded with the essential apps and services seniors need to stay connected without any clutter, spam, or distractions. Apps that include phone and video calling, spam-free email, and family photo galleries are designed with straightforward simplicity so seniors can jump right in and start making and sharing memories.