Consumer Education and Older Persons

Consumer Education and Older Persons
Many older adults who are reluctant to “buy in” to public information and advertising need to seek out a comfort level with technology in an age where changes loom in almost every facet of daily living. For example, companies are offering various types of “smart” technology for electrical use, in home water heaters, special heat and air conditioning regulators, and more – and many older adults are avoiding these offerings or purchases because they are suspicious of what they hear in ads and read in other media outreach tools.

As a result numerous companies are using vamped up outreach tools to reach the general public and especially older adults, e.g., new and improved websites; Facebook and twitter; new phone applications; press releases, literature, and community meetings; speakers through speakers bureaus; newsletters and personal letters; and also working with the AARP to connect as much as possible with older persons through their media.

Many older adults believe it is the responsibility of the company to tell them the pros and cons of a new tech product since they would have no way of knowing the advantages of a new device, how safe it is or if it will save money. They expect the company offering the new product to let them know the details in advance so they can make an informed decision – especially if the new product is connected to their utilities usage or affects their day to day living conditions.

Many public relations experts and others believe that consumer education is a shared responsibility. Communications offices may provide information to the public in a variety of ways -- but if their customers don’t read the brochures and newsletters, don’t attend the public meetings, or don’t establish some kind of dialogue about their concerns – it makes their efforts fruitless.

Older consumers may be naturally suspicious of new technologies they don’t understand and tend to be from “Missouri” the “Show Me” state. If a new device is unproven, older adults tend to want the facts and feel comfortable that the device is not harmful and has benefits. Some of us remember when cigarettes were advertised as being safe.

Given all of these viewpoints, educating ourselves with the information we are provided and also doing some of our own investigating is a prudent approach. Deciding to participate or not with any new initiative based on facts (assuming they are available) and not on suspicions is the best way to go.

“The issue is also about trust,” says one local older adult I interviewed. “We have to trust that new technology advances offered to the general public have been tested and proven to be positive for us. Like automobile and other recalls, we count on watchdog groups to prevent harmful devices from remaining out here if they cause any harm. The good news is that after educating myself as best I can and having some level of trust, I’ll be able to make a decision about new purchases that I’m comfortable with.”

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Content copyright © 2023 by Patricia Villani, MPA, PhD. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Patricia Villani, MPA, PhD. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Patricia Villani, MPA, PhD for details.