How To Make Your App Appealing To An Older Demographic

When you hear the word “elderly,” what concepts or words come to mind? More than likely, it’s stuff like nursing homes, AARP, grandmas baking cookies, senior discounts, Depends, and Betty White. You probably don’t think of things like mobile devices or social networking. Fair enough.

Do you know what the fastest growing demographic for Facebook has been in the last few years? It’s the 50+ set; that’s what. Don’t let that 75-year old lady who appears to be taking several hours to swipe her bank card in the checkout line fool you; older people are warming up to social media, mobile devices, and apps, and they are eager to learn and use them.

That’s why it’s essential that you make your app attractive to the older Baby Boomers out there. How does one do this, you wonder? Glad you asked …

Make It Simple Without Being Condescending

Let’s face it; we’re talking here about a demographic, especially at the much older end, that probably hasn’t been spending too much time trying to keep up with the latest and greatest innovations of the day.

That’s why your app needs to be simple in its execution, something that won’t be intimidating to the novice. As the article “5 Pointers for Breaking into the Elderly Demographic” points out, seniors don’t like to feel like they’re being talked down to.

Use Slightly Bigger Fonts

… or at least don’t use microscopically tiny fonts. It’s an aggravating fact of life that, as you get older, your eyes lose their ability to focus on up-close things like print. Using a larger font will be an attractive selling point to aging boomers and conversely, using text that appears to have been written by a gnat will be a huge turnoff, and the app won’t be used, no matter how cool it is.

Geeks And Nerds Age Too, You Know!

Sure, older boomers may devote a greater than average mindshare to topics like health and finances, but that’s not the only things they find interesting. Boomers do such amazing things like texting, getting excited over new tech, and even … gasp … having sex. But let’s bring things back around to the whole geeks and nerds thing.

Let’s take, for instance, someone who was born in 1955, which makes them 60 years old. When they were 14, they witnessed the moon landing on tv and enjoyed shows like Star Trek. When they were 22 years old, they were the first to watch this obscure little movie called Star Wars when it debuted on the big screen. Rumor has it that it did pretty well.

The point here is, just because someone’s got a bit more snow on the top doesn’t mean that their geeky or nerd tendencies have been left behind. That geeky Trekkie with the overly long Doctor Who scarf, who played Dungeons And Dragons and bought an Apple IIc in 1983 is still there, eager to experience the coolest tech that 2015 has to offer. Make sure your app gives them that chance.

Granted, this seems to contradict the first point, but that only underscores the need for the next point, which is …

Achieve A Balance

No one said designing an app with a universal appeal would be easy, but it’s already been well-established that you don’t want to shut out this potentially lucrative demographic. But that’s why bringing in a certain amount of balance to the app is key.

For instance, simplicity is a great way to get people into an app, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t include other features for those users who have already mastered the basics. So the ideal strategy is to design the app in such a way that it can be used by anyone from the get-go, keeping initial exposure simple, and then bringing out the more complicated functions and extras to be employed by advanced users, regardless of their age or other demographic.

Of course, all of this gets thrown out the window if you’re designing an app that’s aimed at a particular age group. In that case, all bets are off. But if you’re developing an app exclusively for the older demographic, then you need to meet them on their terms.

About AuthorJohn Terra has been a freelance writer since 1985. He was born in 1959, and is a total geek. He also uses reading glasses and has an AARP card.

John Terra

John Terra has been a freelance writer since 1985. As a computer operator in the 80's, he made more than his share of mistakes.

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