Older adults, just like all consumers, want digital solutions that are clear, uncluttered, and easy to navigate
What would a digital identity solution look like for older generations? Not to throw too much shade on my mom, but she’s not the most tech-savvy. I mean, I have a distinct memory of her in the ‘90s trying to flip over a CD to listen to the other side. And that’s really by choice: She’s a ceramicist by trade and is definitely more interested in the physical world than the digital one.
That doesn’t mean she can live totally offline in 2021: Who can, really? We FaceTime; she loves watching Netflix on the iPad; and in general I’d say she’s done a really good job integrating the digital world in ways that work for her.
But there are still obstacles to her being truly safe and secure in the digital world and, I’m not going to lie, it stresses out. That got me thinking: What would an online digital identity solution for my mom look like?
According to Ramsey Alwin, CEO of the National Council On Aging (NCOA), an online identity solution for older generations doesn’t look much different from the solutions being created for younger people.
“Older adults, just like all consumers, want digital solutions that are clear, uncluttered, and easy to navigate,” Alwin tells Avast. “Tools must be trustworthy, straightforward, and provide clear value.”
And while “digital identity” might be a relatively new idea, that doesn’t mean older adults don’t need it.
"I think older adults would be interested in a digital identity solution,” Alwin says. “Regardless of your age, it can be overwhelming to manage the number of websites that require accounts and applications to navigate basic needs. A simple solution that addresses a real pain point is a winner for all ages.”
Alwin warns, however, that it’s a misstep to lump everyone over the age of 50 into one group, when it comes to technology — and otherwise. I can attest to this in my own family: my dad is 58 and usually has the newest tech gadget before I do, while my 71-year-old mom had to practically be forced to use an iPhone.
"Consumers aged 55 to 105 have varying needs and levels of tech literacy,” Alwin says. “Given all the variation, it’s best to provide multiple ways for older adults to interact — website, email, social media, chat, and phone. Like any consumer, older adults are not one-size-fits-all.”
There are, however, certain accessibility challenges that are more common as we age than when we’re younger. But — as is the result with designing for many types of edge cases — it’s likely that creating products with those in mind will help consumers across the board.
“To meet the vision needs of older adults, avoid using small font sizes or bright font colors, make sure there is enough contrast, always include alt text for images, and use clear and consistent buttons for calls to action. Provide captions for all videos for the hearing-impaired,” Alwin suggests.
Ultimately, a digital identity solution for my mom would be so seamless she wouldn’t even realize she was using it. It would require one secure “password” (or biometric) that gave her access to everything, from passwords to credit cards to important documents. Which, honestly, sounds like exactly what I want as well.