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Keep Older Adults at Top of Mind, AARP CEO Urges Tech Industry

50-plus Americans spent $140 billion on technology in 2018, AARP report finds

"What's good for the old is also good for the young,” AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins says. Listen to her at CES in Las Vegas.

En español | AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins called on business leaders to recognize the power of the 50-plus market in a conversation Tuesday at CES, the Consumer Technology Association's massive annual electronics trade show.

In a discussion with Natalie Schneider, Samsung's vice president of digital health, Jenkins urged technology executives and entrepreneurs to design products with consumers age 50 and older in mind.

According to The Longevity Economy Outlook , a new AARP report that looks at the overall economic contribution of older adults, 50-plus Americans spent an estimated $140 billion on technology in 2018.

Their talk, moderated by Forbes reporter Marty Swant, took place in a bustling convention center hall on the first full day of CES, which draws more than 170,000 attendees representing all facets of the tech industry, from telehealth to virtual reality.

"What's good for the old is also good for the young,” Jenkins said from the event stage, emphasizing the idea that product features and functions that benefit older adults also can help other age groups. Technology that allows caregivers to stay connected to older loved ones, for example, also might help parents keep track of young children.

Jenkins and Schneider also were enthusiastic about tech products that are helping people age in place and address health concerns. For example, virtual-reality headsets are being used to help people living with dementia while voice-controlled gadgets, such as smart speakers, show promise in combating social isolation, which affects an estimated 1 in 3 Americans 45 and older.

The pair also addressed misconceptions about the 50-plus tech market, including the notion that older adults aren't ardent technology users or a valuable consumer base.

According to The Longevity Economy Outlook, Americans 50 and older not only spent billions on technology in 2018, their total economic contribution that year, taking into account factors such as taxes and work-force participation, amounted to $8.3 trillion.

Those numbers are only expected to increase in the decades to come. Tech spending among the 50-plus population is expected to reach $645 billion by 2050, when the first Gen Zers — those born between 1997 and 2012 — start turning 50, according to the report.