Your Parents’ Health IT Movement: Making Health Apps for Boomers

By Suzie Mitchell

I’m a Baby Boomer who loves technology.

Weekly, I join a group of five or six fellow Boomers at a local coffee shop where we trade information about our favorite apps.  It’s become quite a game of friendly competition, each of us trying to have the “best app” on our smartphone or tablet.  But during this exchange, I’ve noticed the majority of our apps deal with health, wellness and fitness.

Inevitably, someone complains, “why can’t these kid developers make these apps easier to use?”

“I really like this idea but it’s too hard to move around,” another bemoans.

Since Baby Boomers comprise the largest, wealthiest, cohort in America– needing health, wellness, and medical apps– why do we Boomers often feel trapped on the app design sidelines?

Baby Boomers are defined as the 78 million Americans born from 1946-1964. We control 77 percent of the nation’s wealth.  We buy 45 percent of all consumer goods and we spent $2.5 trillion in 2010, according to the Pew Institute.

The Pew Internet Project, concluded that 80 percent of Boomers are online and 26 percent own smartphones.  We spend 15 hours per week online doing research, emailing, shopping, reading and socializing about hobbies like gardening and travel.

How to reach Boomers

So if app developers are serious about tapping into the Boomers $2.5 trillion wallets, here is some advice:

  • Make the site clear and easy to read—Designers always want to use a thin font in a small point size that looks cool.  However, it’s too hard for Boomer eyes to read.  Use a sanserif font like Tahoma, Calibri, or Arial.  And never use a point size less than 12 point.
  • Try to limit reverse type for headlines only.  Again, it’s too hard on Boomer eyes.  Use a lot of white space.  Primary colors are a plus a well.
  • Use large buttons placed in areas that are easily recognizable.  Don’t make them search for the save, print, or help button.
  • Make the help section and home page accessible from every screen if possible.  Boomers absolutely hate being lost in a maze of a website and not being able to get help or get back home.
  • Make sure your help section uses easy to understand terms in its FAQ, not technical ones.
  • Make the navigation simple.  Many Boomers suffer from arthritis or have other manual dexterity issues that make navigating a site more challenging.
  • Name your site a name that explains what it is.  Try not to be too cute by half.  It doesn’t work, it’s confusing.  Some good examples are Fooducate, Flikster, Lose It– the name explains what the site does

If you follow these simple steps, you’ve got a much better shot at delighting Boomers. Boomers have always thought of themselves as eternally young. That’s why they want to stay relevant by having the latest tech toys and equipment. And that’s why they are prime targets for health and wellness apps.

Suzie Mitchell is a Baby Boomer who loves new technology.  She runs Mitchell PR, which is a division of Mitchell Research & Communications, Inc., and specializes in helping companies market mobile apps to Baby Boomers.