By Susannah Fox, CTO
of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
You might be wondering why a Chief Technology Officer would
be part of a conference on aging. Isn’t tech a young person’s game?
First of all, I love Alan Kay’s definition: Technology is
anything invented after you were born.
Second, my grandmother, who used a CB radio in the 1970s and
bought one of the first Apple computers in the 1980s, inspires a different
point of view. When I showed her the internet in 1995, she said, “I was born
too soon.” Then she proved herself wrong by living another 11 years, a daily
internet user. I learned to never assume that someone’s age determines his or
her interest in or affinity for technology.
I also believe we can learn from older adults and their use
of technology. Studies show that if a website is optimized for older users,
younger users benefit too. When I was building online tools, I would bring my
laptop over to my grandmother’s house in Baltimore. She was my best beta
tester. If it didn’t make sense to her, I would change the navigation.