America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
By Anna Murray
29 January 2017
This is not criticism. It’s an opportunity.
We’re sure you’re aware of the senior citizens complaining about the Uber app. They’re in news reports whining your interface is confusing. Proof, they say, of insular Silicon-Valley thinking and youth-culture bias.
Obviously, these bellyachers are a bunch of fumble-fingered fogies who just can’t use technology.
Just look at your simple list of choices!
What could be more straightforward?
And, anyway, how were you guys at Uber to foresee seniors would be such a large user group? Up to 40% according to some of your drivers! It was so unpredictable. The population is aging? Elderly people can’t drive? Have lots of doctor’s appointments? Who do they think you people at Uber are, a squad of demographers?
Case in point. My 88-year-old father— a Harvard MBA for Pete’s sake!—ended up in Hauppauge instead of Yonkers because of a confusion among four Meadow Lanes. Honestly, if he can’t see the 7-point type, he should Uber himself over to the eye doctor and get his progressives adjusted.
I guess they just don’t make MBAs like they used to. Or something like that.
Really, it’s our fault—the children of elderly parents. We were the ones who installed your app on their phones. “Elder Orphans,” that’s the new term for the one-quarter of aging baby boomers with no one to look after them. You could say senior-citizen dependence on Uber is just the price you pay for raising narcissistic children.
Still, our neglect has turned into your PR problem. And you know what they say in the Valley—Every problem is a new App waiting to happen!
Here’s our suggestion for the Uber User-Experience team:
Feature #1—Grandchild Admin
All users of UberOLD must hand their device over to the nearest grandchild. The grandchild will be pre-authorized with an admin-level login.
Feature #2—Old Person Setup
Signing on as admin, the grandchild will set up the application for his or her grandparent. The admin/grandchild will load all doctors’ addresses and other common grandparent destinations.
Feature #3—Old Person Interface
Click the UberOld icon and go! All other Uber destinations and features will be blocked.
Feature #4—The Killer Feature!
We expect feature #4 to be the real winner.
The UberOld admin/grandchild may designate some locations as “destinations requiring approval.”
Say the old person wants to visit her daughter. She clicks on “Ashley-Home” in the pre-populated list. This action kicks off the following modal:
“The destination, Ashley-Home, requires prior approval. An email has been sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your UberOld will be scheduled when the receiving destination approves.”
If the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries have taught us one thing, it is this: The ideal place to make big money is smack at the intersection of Heath Care Street and Senior Citizen Boulevard.
It’s time for Uber to cash in on this unexplored market niche. Just imagine the value of the data on this targeted senior citizen user group. Everyone from pharmaceutical marketers to identity thieves trolling for social security numbers will want access to your users. Think your current $66B valuation is high? Get ready for $1T.
One note of caution: This opportunity won’t be around forever. You Uber folks need to cash in while old people can still go to doctors. We’re not talking about death here, but something much more final: the Trump Administration and its plans for Medicare privatization.
To be clear, digital natives have zero problems using the standard Uber interface. So we were surprised at what happened when people heard about our idea. Hordes of young folks asked to be in the Beta Test group for the simplified Uber interface. We offer this list to the Uber management, attached as a .zip file of 250,000 names.
Anna Murray is CEO of emedia, llc., a technology consulting company, and a writer. Her essays have appeared in Vox, Luna Luna, The Reject Pile, The Daily Mail, Soundings Review, Piker Press, Adanna, and The Guardian Witness. Her recently completed new novel is represented by David Black Agency. Her non-fiction title, The Complete Software Project Manager, was published in January 2016 by John Wiley & Sons. One reviewer commented, “This is a technical book that reads like a novel.”