How Brands Can Bridge the Senior Tech Gap During COVID-19 and Beyond

“What do you mean we have to ‘stream’ my grandson’s high school graduation instead of going in person? I don’t even know what that means.”

“You need to help me do an upgrade on my five-year-old phone. And I’m not investing in a new one. I’m on a budget, and these things should last longer.”

“But I’m used to depositing checks and taking out cash at the bank. I don’t do that stuff electronically.”

 “My doctor says I should do a digital appointment because of COVID-19. Can you help me with that?”

“I got an email from my bank, and I shared my social security number and account numbers so they could help me. Is that okay?”

Any adult child who has heard these comments and questions from a parent over 70 knows the stress. Helping aging parents with technology adoption can be a time suck as well as a real concern, especially over their security and budget issues.

COVID-19 is making these scenarios even more acute as the high-risk senior population remains stuck at home. Why aren’t we hearing more from consumer and technology brands about empowering and protecting this group? Instead, a technology literacy gap is preventing some seniors from keeping up with their basic daily needs—with sometimes tragic results.

In Ketchum’s Technology and Social Permission study, we uncovered a portion of the population we now call the Technology Sandwich Generation: parents who help their kids under 18 as well as their aging parents with technology. What we found was that, although the media and many consumer activist groups have been sounding the alarm for years about kids’ screen time and security, few are talking about an even bigger worry: older people falling behind and not being able to function in a society increasingly dependent on technology.

The concern is real—83% of the Technology Sandwich Generation believe that older adults have greater risk of technology disruption, such as falling prey to a scam or not keeping up with bills. A full 100% provide assistance to their parents when it comes to technology. And about one-third say helping their parents with technology is a burden because of the time it takes.

Even more alarming, the vast majority of the Technology Sandwich Generation worry that both their kids and their parents could be victims of technology issues such as cybersecurity breaches and scams, with 91% worried about their children’s security and 87% worried about their own aging parents’ technology use.

This is a huge opportunity (and risk) for brands who want to build trust with both adult children and seniors. Although communication alone can’t fix product or service flaws that don’t consider the needs of the aging, it can be a key tool to enhance trust and brand loyalty. Ideas include:

  • Creating technology literacy education programs for the aging, as well as for adult children seeking to help senior parents
  • Developing outreach programs specifically for seniors, in the media they consume and with organizations they trust
  • Alerting consumers to scam campaigns and providing more information on how not to become victims, especially for those who haven’t grown up with current technology
  • Considering senior influencer programs that spread the word to their peers
  • Updating customer service programs and training representatives specifically to help the aging, keeping in mind their unique challenges and learning curves with newer technology

You can learn more about the full Technology Sandwich Generation findings in Ketchum’s news release. As technology continues to disrupt all parts of consumer life and become even more critical for virtual interaction, brands have the opportunity to consider the unique needs of seniors and their grown kids during COVID-19 and beyond and provide solutions that help alleviate the burden and risk. If you’re interested in learning more about the study and how you can use the insights, we’re happy to talk.

Melissa is partner and North America portfolio leader for Technology and Food, Agriculture & Ingredients, specializing in corporate communications, issues management, business-to-business branding, corporate branding and strategic philanthropy/CSR.