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The Aging Readiness & Competitiveness Report

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Technological Engagement

We are entering the era of digital technology and technological advancement that could be transformative for the economic and social engagement and health of older people, but today they remain the most vulnerable to digital exclusion. Still relatively small-scale in most countries, work is beginning to promote digital literacy and to develop technology-driven products and services for this market, including from the private sector, which has been driving much of its growth.

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Older adults have proven to be eager adopters of new technology when they see its clear benefit to their lives – creating both an educational challenge and a need to develop technology that best meets their interests and needs. This is proven in the relative success of social media and other digital tools for communication, which have been gateways to other digital technologies across cultural contexts.

A lack of skill and confidence are the primary obstacles to older adults’ use of technology, but there has been very little done to create tailored training. Access is often viewed through the lens of hard infrastructure, and where digital literacy programs exist, they more often target vulnerable groups as a whole, rather than specifically engaging with the older adult population. Programs designed specifically for older students have yielded better results, with particular success found in training technology-savvy older adults to help peers learn digital skills. One pioneering community center network in the U.S., Senior Planet, has placed digital skills at the center of all its activities – from workplace training to healthcare management to socializing.

The “silver market” is gaining attention from both the public and private sector. A rash of new programs and initiatives have been put in place across countries in recent years. The governments of China and Japan have advanced the development of aging-related technologies with a national strategy, while other countries have also increased funding for innovation. Thus far, engagement from the private sector has been limited to those markets with high-income older consumers, with the exception of China, where a strong policy push has proven effective.

Internet Users As A Percentage of the Population

Internet Users As A Percentage of the Population