At myFamilyChannel, we live by a single commandment when it comes to product development: know thy customer. We’ve taken this approach from day one, and we’re still working hard to stay in tune with older adults’ evolving uses, thoughts and feelings when it comes technology. And like every other generation or age demo, there’s a vast sea of preferences and opinions.

As part of this ongoing effort, we recently partnered with Colorado-based Longevity Labs, which conducts market research for companies that develop technology for older adults. Its founders, Leslie Getty and Matt Isola, also host a workshop called Generation Exchange that pairs analog natives (older folks) with digital natives (younger folks) to talk technology. As we were shopping research firms, we knew they’d be a great fit to provide the kind of insights we’re looking for – after all, we’re kind of swimming in the same pond.

Our approach was to look at two clearly-defined categories – one comprising older adults, say, 65-plus, and another that consisted of their adult children. The second group ranged in age from their mid-50s to mid-60s, for the most part. 

“We work in small forums and dive deep into the qualitative aspects of understanding the personas and giving them a hands-on feel of what this product would be like for them,” Leslie said. “Our mission with myFamilyChannel is really to affirm that which is on target and challenge that which is not.”     

Focus group participants were kind enough to spend some time talking to the research team about their attitudes toward technology, past usage habits and potential future uses. They then got to test drive the myFamilyChannel platform and spent some more time talking to us afterward.

Over the years, Longevity Labs says they’ve found that older adults sometimes feel technology is being developed in a way that excludes them. So the research team frames the conversation and makes clear to study participants that they are essentially part of the development team.

“You can imagine how meaningful it is to them to have a voice in what myFamilyChannel is doing,” Leslie said.

Here’s a snapshot of what folks said about myFamilyChannel, specifically:

  • “This service would simplify my life, and I am all for that!”
  • “I would love seeing everything so large and easy to use.”
  • “I think those who lose a spouse/partner would benefit from this resource, because it helps them maintain their independence.”
  • “My parents are even more flummoxed by tech than I am. If we could all manage doctor’s appointments and well-being updates in one place, that would be a real plus. Also, my parents have multiple TV remotes and can’t ever figure out how to watch anything, so this would be great for them to enjoy entertainment!”

And here are a few general comments we found interesting that reflect participants’ attitudes toward technology:

  • “The password thing: I have four pages of written-out passwords. It’s insane.”
  • “I find that my adult children don’t use telephones anymore – not at all, not to anybody. Everything is a text. I’m cut off by the fact that I’m obliged to text first before they will speak to me on the phone.”
  • “You know, (sigh)…I can use the stuff…if it works.”

There was plenty more, all interesting and useful as we continue our journey and tailor myFamilyChannel’s capabilities to the preferences of our users. For as long as they’ll keep talking to us, we’ll keep listening.