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7 min read

Ok, Boomers, we failed you

Technology doesn’t come as second nature to all of us. Here’s a look at how we can craft generation-inclusive digital products.

Typographical visual reading, "Ok, Boomers, we failed you"

Illustration by Vered Bloch

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A few years ago, my parents decided to buy my grandfather a brand new car GPS system. At the time, this was the hottest piece of tech out there. At the touch of your fingertips, you could get the fastest route anywhere. No more printed directions or physical maps - the possibilities were endless.

As we all sat around the couch in excitement watching him rip off the wrapping paper, our faces quickly turned to confusion. He gave it a good look and then said: “I’ll pass.” When we told him it could get him anywhere he wanted, his response was that he already knows how to get where he wants to go. When we followed up with it can get you there faster, his response was that he doesn’t like to drive fast.

Our hearts sank a bit. What we thought would revolutionize his driving habits was quickly dismissed. There was a clear divide between his reality and ours, and technology only seemed to heighten this division.

Adapting to new technology

The theme of older generations struggling to adapt to technology is all too familiar to most of us. Whether it be the sheer rejection of technology as my grandfather did or the inability to figure out how a piece of technology works, the older generation has always slightly lagged behind; In a study conducted in the European Union, 87% of people over the age of 75 have never been online and nearly 77% of seniors would require assistance in order to learn how to navigate a smartphone or tablet.

Can we blame them though?

As Millennials and Gen Zers have had the fortune of growing up digitally native, Boomers and beyond had to adapt to an ever-evolving tech landscape. Simple digital affordances that we take for granted had to be learned through trial and error, and the translation from analog devices to digital technology was not always a smooth process.

People are innately resistant to change. With the advancement of technology, this was especially true. With change comes uncertainty and giving up something you already trust. For many Boomers and beyond, it was not a mere accessibility issue that drove them away from quickly adopting tech, but fears and personally held values of how technology could impact society.

A senior couple interacting with technology at home

The fault is also on us, younger designers, for making the transition to online highly daunting to newcomers.

The digital divide

Now, with technology evolving faster than ever before, this inertia that older generations have held to so tightly is driving a divide between them and the digitally-savvy younger demographics. While for digitally inclined generations, technology has changed the way we interact with one another, older demographics are not as eager to jump on the bandwagon.

This dichotomy between old analog values and newer tech-influenced values has erupted into a battle between generations where sayings such as “Ok Boomers” and “Millennials are lazy” have arisen. It is not that either generation is better or worse than one another, but that technology has created different realities and standards between them.

Since technology has revolution