Key

  • Leader
  • Mover
  • Laggard
Interactive world map
  • Canada
    Canada
  • United States
    United States
  • Mexico
    Mexico
  • Brazil
    Brazil
  • United Kingdom
    United Kingdom
  • Germany
    Germany
  • Turkey
    Turkey
  • Israel
    Israel
  • South Africa
    South Africa
  • China
    China
  • Korea
    Korea
  • Japan
    Japan
Brazil
Return to full map

Brazil

Technological Engagement

Interest in the older-age market is growing in the Brazilian technology sector, as some local companies, led by startups, have begun to develop products using information and communication technology (ICT) to meet the needs of older adults and their families. The government has also increased funding for innovations that assist with independent living of older adults and people with disabilities. However, the digital divide between older adults and the rest of the population and limited support for digital literacy remain barriers to fully unleashing this promising market.

View Full Report

Canada
Return to full map

Canada

Technological Engagement

Older Canadians are increasingly integrating information and communication technologies (ICT) into their daily lives with the support of community-led programs focused on skills development. In recent years, both the government and the private sector have stepped up efforts to support the development and commercialization of digital products and solutions that meet the needs of older adults and caregivers, with some success, particularly in the healthcare sector.

View Full Report

China
Return to full map

China

Technological Engagement

Actively incorporating digital technology into its competitiveness strategy, the Chinese government has seized on the opportunity to develop information and communication technology (ICT)-driven solutions to accommodate the needs of older adults. The central government highlighted the task of developing the smart care sector for older adults in its “Internet+” Action Plan launched in 2015, and is seeking to promote the use of online information platforms for older-age care and Internet-based portable devices in professional caregiving.

View Full Report

Germany
Return to full map

Germany

Technological Engagement

Older German adults stand out for their high levels of technology adoption − the vast majority are using the Internet at least once per week. The country is also leading in the development of specific technologies intended for older adult use, such as Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) technology, which is intended to assist older people in functioning independently. The government has focused both on increasing access to technology, as well as further developing innovative technological solutions to assist the older population in their daily lives. Interesting models have emerged for enhancing digital literacy, helping older adults take on a more active role as collaborators in training their peers in the skills needed to use basic technologies.

View Full Report

Israel
Return to full map

Israel

Technological Engagement

Dubbed the “Startup Nation,” Israel’s technology sector has begun to move into the aging-related market in recent years. A number of aging-tech startups and projects have emerged, which are based in Israel but keen to tap global markets. Policy efforts have also been made to improve digital literacy, helping to reduce the digital divide between older and younger populations and contributing to increased adoption of digital devices among older adults.

View Full Report

Japan
Return to full map

Japan

Technological Engagement

With over half of its population age 60 and over online, and the nation’s competitive edge in information and communications technology (ICT), Japan is better positioned than most countries to capitalize on new technologies for older consumers. The government has been seeking ICT-driven solutions in various aspects of older adults’ lifestyle, ranging from healthcare and social welfare to economic participation. The government and private sector are also seeking to secure a competitive advantage in the booming global older-age market, with a focus on developing robotics technologies to meet the needs of older people and caregivers.

View Full Report

Korea
Return to full map

Korea

Technological Engagement

While Korea is famous for its advanced IT infrastructure, it has the greatest digital divide between the younger and older population among OECD countries. The low digital literacy among today’s older adults inhibits them from benefiting from digital technologies and requires greater training support. However, aging baby boomers, who are wealthier and better educated, represent a huge market opportunity for age-related digital products and solutions, and Korean companies are just beginning to focus on this new market, with a particular interest in mobile devices and telecom services.

View Full Report

Mexico
Return to full map

Mexico

Technological Engagement

Among OECD countries, Mexico has the lowest rate of Internet users. Basic forms of technology remain expensive, which is keenly felt by the older population, and negative perceptions persist about the value of the Internet. The federal government has implemented a National Digital Strategy to improve accessibility, and the Mexico City government is planning to establish an annual digital event to bring the experience of digital technologies to new users. NGOs are also working to provide technology training for members of marginalized communities, but like the government, they lack programs that specifically target older adults.

View Full Report

South Africa
Return to full map

South Africa

Technological Engagement

Older people in South Africa are engaging with basic technologies at higher rates than ever before, but there is still a significant digital divide. Much like in education, government efforts have been long-term endeavors geared toward the entire population, without a focus on older adults. The primary emphasis has been on technology diffusion by increasing infrastructure accessibility. While Internet penetration among older people remains low, they have begun to engage with mobile technology at much higher rates in recent years. Some local companies have begun to adapt mobile technology to the needs of older consumers, but the lack of widely available training limits uptake.

View Full Report

Turkey
Return to full map

Turkey

Technological Engagement

Mirroring educational attainment, older adults in Turkey have among the lowest rates of technology adoption, leading to a large digital divide with tech-savvy younger people in the country. The government has endeavored to address this by increasing access to infrastructure and hardware, but the lack of training opportunities is the primary barrier to engaging older adults in the digital era. While low adoption of digital technology has undermined the market segment’s attractiveness for the private sector, leading telecom companies have been working to improve digital inclusion, with an eye to market expansion as well as corporate social responsibility.

View Full Report

United Kingdom
Return to full map

United Kingdom

Technological Engagement

The penetration of digital technologies in the UK’s general and older population is among the highest in Europe, and the British government continues to seek additional avenues to improve digital inclusion. Still, several studies have identified multiple barriers that continue to inhibit digital inclusion, from insufficient infrastructure to the users themselves. The government released its updated digital strategy in March of 2017, which prioritizes continued investment in digital infrastructure and promoting digital skill development, including access to free training. The government recognizes that cross-sector engagement will be necessary, and the UK Secretary of State for Culture, responsible for technology, will be establishing a forum to engage stakeholders to move the strategy forward. There is considerable economic potential that could be realized with greater digital inclusion among older adults. A recent study estimated that full digital take-up could add GBP 63 billion (approximately USD 81 billion) in value to the economy.

View Full Report

United States
Return to full map

United States

Technological Engagement

The U.S. is a leader in digital technology penetration, with an increase in technology utilization by older Americans who are seeking greater social connection, assistance with personal tasks, support in the workplace, and health and home care. The Internet-penetration gap in the U.S. is among the smallest within OECD countries. However, Internet access and the expansion of broadband services, particularly into rural areas, has been and continues to be critical to service delivery. Expanded coverage will be key to enabling the proliferation and penetration of assistance technologies. Senior centers and social service agencies are integrating programs and classes designed to enhance older adults’ digital competency and fluency. In some select cases, centers are exclusively dedicated to facilitating older adults’ digital technology adoption.

View Full Report

Technological Engagement

Globally, the aging trend is converging with a wave of technological advancements that could transform the economic and social engagement and health of older people – reducing costs, increasing access, and creating a unique opportunity to turn aging into a pathway for growth. However, the digital transformation has yet to live up to its potential. While older adults are among those who could benefit most from technological advancements, they have lagged on the adoption of technology. Still relatively small-scale in most countries, efforts are beginning to close the gap by helping older adults realize the value of technology and promote digital literacy, as well as developing technology-driven products and services for this market, including from the private sector, which has been driving much of its growth.

Digital technology can influence every aspect of older people’s lives

Digital technology can influence every aspect of older people’s lives.

(Sources: OECD; Pew Research; Neumann, D.; FP Analytics)

healthcare-and-wellness--large.jpg

Digital Inclusion

Realizing the potential of digital transformation will require breaking through the digital divide. Older adults are eager adopters of technologies that offer clear benefits, as demonstrated by the relative popularity of various social media tools. However, they are often unaware of these benefits or lack the skills and confidence to access them. Relatively small-scale projects around the world are experimenting with ways to best overcome these obstacles, including initiatives that demonstrate the usefulness of technology with direct application to older adults’ lives and provide tailored, peer-to-peer training.

Since 2011, over 90 percent of OECD countries with data available have seen the growth in online social networking usage outstrip that in internet usage among the population age 55 through 74. In the U.S., which has the smallest digital divide among the ARC countries, older adults who obtain news on social media engage with news on these platforms at similar rates as those of ages 18 through 29.

Internet Users as a Percentage of Population, by Age Group (2015 or nearest)

Internet Users As A Percentage of the Population

Note: For South Africa, data for ages 55 through 74 are missing.

(Sources: OECD; CNNIC; FP Analytics)

In every ARC country, older adults are notably lagging the general population in internet usage. In Japan, which boasts one of the highest internet penetrations in the OECD, the percentage of people ages 60 through 69 using the internet was one-fifth lower than that of the population ages 16 or older. Meanwhile, in China, which has the largest digital divide among the ARC countries, the percentage of people age 60 or older using the internet was less than one-quarter of that of the total population as of 2016.

Senior Planet Exploration Center in the U.S.

Older Adult Technology Services (OATS), a U.S. social-impact organization, launched the Senior Planet Exploration Center in 2013 to use digital technology to help older adults stay connected, work, and live independently in the digital era. The Center is centrally located in Manhattan and outfitted with state-of-the-art digital technology. It not only provides training courses on how to use the internet and devices like PCs and iPads, as traditional training centers do, but also shows older people how to use technology for social engagement. One interesting initiative is “Team Senior Planet,” where older adults learn exercise techniques with the assistance of devices such as Fitbit. Through another initiative called “Money Matters,” older adults are shown how to do online price comparisons and use resources like e-commerce to save money or earn extra income. The Center has also hosted various events to inspire creativity among older people, such as developing digital art. The Center, together with its 23 satellite technology labs, serves around 20,000 older residents in New York City each year. Building on this success, in 2015 OATS opened a second Senior Planet Exploration Center in Plattsburgh, a town in upstate New York, and is also working with the government of Israel to develop a model that is tailored to the needs of older adults in that country.

Private-Sector Engagement

The private sector is beginning to recognize the tremendous potential of digital products to meet the needs of older consumers, although this has been limited to markets with high-income consumers. In spite of this growing enthusiasm, furthering private-sector engagement in this market faces three barriers. Risk aversion prevents companies from making bold moves and rapidly responding to this still nascent market opportunity. For those that are eager to enter the market, funding and commercialization challenges, as well as a lack of familiarity of the older consumer segment, are the main obstacles to the development and marketing of technologies that suit older adults’ needs and interests. Early efforts have been made by both the public and private sector to prompt companies to participate in building the aging-related technology market by helping address these challenges.

Globally, the number of older adults is growing faster than the populations of any other age group, and their spending power is projected to total USD 15 trillion by 2020. Among the ARC countries, people age 65 or older in all industrialized economies (except Korea), as well as China and Brazil, are on average spending more than those ages 25 through 64.

Over the period from 2010 through 2015, more than half of VC, PE, and corporate funds invested into health-related technology and 47 percent of the investment deals were focused on products and services that could be used by those age 50 or older. The annual funds invested to target this 50-and-older segment rose five-fold, and the annual deal number tripled.

China’s Policy Push to Develop an Aging-Related Technology Market

Among emerging market economies, China stands out for its success in expanding its aging-related technology market, thanks to a strong policy push in recent years. Since 2013, the central government has introduced a rash of major policies to support aging in place and cultivate older-age care industries. With a focus on leveraging digital technology to develop innovative products and services, the government offers a range of incentives ranging from subsidies to preferential taxes. The government further incorporated the development of the smart older-age care sector into the national digital strategy – “Internet+” Action Plan – launched in July 2015. According to VCBeat Research, as of early 2016, 75 percent of startups in China that specialize in providing ICT-enabled products and services to older adults were established from 2013 through 2015. These companies cover an extensive range of products and services: 21 percent provide smart home-based or institution-based care systems, 18 percent provide older-age care services, and the rest focus on hardware, software, and e-business services, among others.

Key Takeaways

Digital technologies not only have the promise to improve the lives of older adults around the world – facilitating social and productive engagement and delivering improved health outcomes – but also significant economic gains, both in more efficient and lower-cost services, and opening up new market opportunities. However, significant gaps exist between the benefits technology can deliver and the extent to which older adults realize and use them, and between the products and services older adults demand and what the private sector actually provides. Governments, businesses, and other stakeholders can all play important roles in bridging these gaps, by:

 
  • Eliminating digital exclusion by raising older adults’ awareness of the usefulness of technology and providing tailored training opportunities;
  • Facilitating companies’ entry into this market through a strong policy push and funding and commercialization support; and
  • Connecting innovators, product developers, and service providers with older consumes to enhance their understanding of the group and ability to serve its needs.

The Full Technological Engagement Report

Download the full report in PDF format by clicking the button below.

Download the full Technological Engagement report