Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 460 - 479)


8 MARCH 2005Mr Mervyn Kohler, Mr Steven Sadler and Mr Robert Diamond

  Q460  Chairman: Which leads me to wonder whether companies should not be required to have a non-executive board member with a particular remit in this area, but that is perhaps facetious.

  Mr Diamond: An interesting idea.

  Mr Sadler: Good morning, My Lord Chairman, my name is Steve Sadler and I am the Technical Director of Tunstall Group. Perhaps I could make two observations with regard to your question: one is that we actually design and manufacture products of various kinds for older people and vulnerable people, but even there, in that specific category, what we find is that the requirements of the products are often influenced by people other than the older people themselves, so it might be the buyer, it might be the intervening authority. If you look, for example, at today's telecare market, as it has been branded, which has developed from the old social alarm market, the vast majority of social alarms for community care were specified and had standards set for them by local authority procurers of one form or another—housing authorities and social services. In other words, if you have people making decisions and specifications on behalf of older people it does not necessarily get you the product that is right for the older person—sometimes it does, sometimes it does not, so there is that issue. The second point I would make is that in our industry we design and manufacture, but we also integrate other people's products. For example, my colleague made reference to mobile phones, cordless phones and so on, and what we find is that very, very rarely are those products targeted at older people specifically. My belief is that there is a very simple economic reason for that, that those suppliers optimise products for what they see as their core market initially, and that core market very often precludes the very young and the very old, it is looking at that central affluent age range, mobile phones being a prime example. It is almost not until you start to exhaust those core markets do people start to move into the adjacent markets as they would see it, and certainly we see it therefore as almost a timing effect as much as a lack of interest. Those varied products which are better suited to older people tend to appear later in the lifecycle of that type of technology. I offer those comments to you.

  Q461  Chairman: If I could address both of you, Mr Diamond and Mr Sadler, the question that occurs to me is how much market research is done in respect of communities, and do you actually talk to older people as part of that market research, or do you just take the core market that you, Mr Sadler, were talking about—if people are affluent this is the kind of thing they will want, as distinct from affluent with certain digital skills or whatever?

  Mr Sadler: If I could pick that one up first, for me there is quite a bit of research that goes on with the user base. Whilst various sessions and focus groups and other activities are run with older people we do see a dominant effect driven by the buyer and certainly, in our market, that has been driven by an intervening authority, usually a public sector person. I suspect that market still is rather skewed, therefore, in favour of the buyer rather than the end user.

  Mr Diamond: From a marketing perspective the research is rather sadly self-selecting, in that one of the first things you do when placing research is choose which target group you wish to research amongst and then, by definition, you get a skewed result. In our experience we have been involved in two commercial initiatives by large manufacturing organisations; interestingly, both of them called Project Phoenix, completely independently of each other, which intimates people rising from the ashes, so in evolutionary terms rather the wrong way round I would have thought. In both those instances they actually went out and researched the needs of an older audience, and I think it is a trend that is becoming increasingly prevalent amongst brand organisations. Rather than looking at the opportunity of any ageing population, they are rather fearing the impact of an ageing population, so for one of the manufacturers they happened to be in the business of marketing deodorants and other personal care products, and one of the fascinating facts is that your need for anti-perspirants and deodorants diminishes over 50 which means, if that is your business, you are in trouble because your population base is ageing from beneath you. In that instance some organisations are making special efforts but, to be honest, the mainstream of their budgets is focused absolutely in the heartland of the buyer who, for many consumables, is perceived to be the rather stereotyped mother in her mid to late 30s with two children trailing around behind her in the local supermarket, and that is who they research among.

  Q462  Lord Turnberg: The question I was going to ask has been answered, at least in part. As I get older I find I am less and less interested in the advertisements that are around, and those that are I am less and less convinced by, so I suppose the older one is the less easy it is to convince someone through advertising that this is the thing they have to have, which must make it difficult for the advertising industry. I suppose the aged are fortunate in not being responsive quite so much to advertising, but nevertheless there are large numbers of products which should be available to the elderly, but I suspect there is a gap—I suppose that is why you have set up your grey group. What can be done? How can Mr Sadler sell his products better to an audience which is likely to be more critical of the gorgeous blue and red adverts?

  Mr Diamond: We have spent quite a bit of time looking at this. Our starting premise is, fundamentally, that you have to educate the manufacturers of products and services as to the commercial opportunity available. Ours is a fairly simple business, which is that we are at the receiving end of other people's investment in marketing, therefore we have to be responsive to their needs and to the degree that we can educate them around where other marketing opportunities lie. We do not have a social agenda, ours is a purely commercial agenda. There is some fairly direct learning about marketing messages and propositions that resonate more with an older audience, and they are all rather warming: it is about presenting people with the facts in a clear and compelling manner, it is inviting individuals to make their own choices about which product is better than another product. Here too you get into a discussion about which medium you are using to communicate with, but it tends to be rather richer messages in terms of deeper content, so typically products that are marketed to older consumers tend to be presented in the print medium or in the radio medium rather than necessarily the fast soundbite and high cost of television, although the generalism does vary by product. Certainly, though, there are different cues which do appear to be relevant to older consumers when they are receiving marketing messages and making their own decisions based on them, and they are very different to the accepted ways of mainstream marketing and advertising.

  Q463  Lord Turnberg: Is there a big gap there?

  Mr Diamond: When I set up the Grey Matters unit I thought there was a huge gap, ands three years later and quite a bit of money down in investment I am not quite sure how big the gap is. Certainly, when we go round speaking to brand owners—and we work across almost all consumer sectors that you can imagine, from technology to automotive, to consumer goods to travel retail—everybody nods and looks at the numbers and is academically interested about the ageing population, but they then go back and do what they have been doing before. As I say, the only brands that I think have responded in any major way have viewed the ageing population as a major commercial opportunity, or a major threat, and have therefore taken active steps to engage with older consumers.

  Mr Kohler: May I add to that, please? I think there is something in the observation that the conventional way of getting messages across to the public seems to have less impact on the older population, and the examples I will give you are all from the public services. We still have something like two million pensioners in this country entitled to pension credit, which they are not claiming. There have been adverts on television, they have been written letters and all this kind of thing, yet for some reason or another—there is free money out there—people have not responded and have not claimed their benefit. You could say the same thing about a number of the programmes to improve people's heating systems and things of that nature; look at the resistance from the pensioner population to the withdrawal of pension books and their replacement with smart cards. There are still, probably, about a million people out there who have not got a bank account for their pension to be paid into. There is a gap, therefore, in terms of effective communications with older people which I think affects not just the commercial world but the world of Government as well.

  Q464  Chairman: Mr Sadler, do you want to come in as well?

  Mr Sadler: Just coming back to the point about who is making the decisions, if we look at how we could perhaps improve the marketing to older people, one way of course is to make sure that the proposition we are delivering is one that appeals directly to the end user. If you look at the example of the traditional social alarm market, which I have referred to already for our type of product, that was very much "This is a product that I am going to give you because you need it; it is not what you want, but I am making the decision that you need it." Those propositions have changed over time so if you look at today's telecare technology, it provides other things such as intruder monitoring, bogus callers, reminders to take your medication, in other words things that should appeal to you directly as an end user, you can make your own informed decision. So I think one issue is that we have got to make the proposition properly appeal to that older user. The other point that I feel quite strongly is the question of trust. We are talking very generally about people with a great deal of experience behind them, they have seen these things come and go, have they got a perception that what is marketed and sold usually delivers the outcome they expect? Not always, so there is a question of trust there, and if I try and relate it to our own experience there is this issue of the channel by which that proposition gets to the end user. To give an example, if you take our products, you can send out lots of leaflets, you have television campaigns, but universally those have failed because they are alien to that older community; if the product is taken to that older person through a trusted channel, however, a local authority for example, someone they know, or with a strong brand name, or a blue chip company, that very often works. The example that springs to mind, is the work at West Lothian in Scotland where the council themselves were offering a product, technology and services—it happens to be our product but there are lots of others—to people over 60, and the take-up they have had is remarkable. They have 10,000 households with people over 60, and currently it has been taken up by about 1,700 people, so 17 per cent. Anyone in the commercial industry would be very pleased with that sort of take-up. My personal belief is that it is there because they have a good, strong council with a trusted record; a private sector company would not have achieved the same degree of success.

  Chairman: That is very helpful, thank you. Lady Emerton.

  Q465  Baroness Emerton: Thank you My Lord Chairman. Having listened to what has been said already it seems that there is, indeed, a problem of education, and I think Mr Diamond mentioned that it is education not only of the older people but also perhaps, dare I say it, of marketing managers and marketing personnel. Following the conversation we have had, can you identify any specific actions, for example the formation of a trade association, that might help to accelerate the development of companies' products and markets which would be targeted at the older consumers, who would be educated themselves towards those objects, because I think that point has been made in terms of the trust that is required by the older person.

  Mr Diamond: If I understand your question correctly it relates to whether some form of education or some sort of trade body should be set up.

  Q466  Baroness Emerton: Or both.

  Mr Diamond: I had a note of it before we came in today, and I think it is a very interesting proposition. Without a doubt, this is a discussion topic which requires further debate and further education, both amongst consumers—who probably have debates on a daily basis with their friends about the irrelevance of advertising—and amongst the people who produce that advertising who rarely have the debate about where is the population going, where is the wealth within the population going, what is the impact of an ageing population on dependency in terms of a working population having to support an increasingly large base of retired people? Whether a trade body is the right way or not I genuinely do not know. I think the concept of more direct research and subsequent education amongst marketing practitioners has great merit. I certainly know that for Haymarket Conferences, which is one of the largest organisers of conferences for the marketing community, their annual Older Richer Wiser conference is consistently sold out and has the highest attendance of any of those commercial conferences. Clearly, therefore, people are looking for further information. There seems to be a gap though, which is the provision of information through conferences and trade bodies and then the take-up by commercial organisations in terms of drawing senior consumers into their commercial plans. It is interesting that you rather lightly suggested that potentially there could be a non-executive director involved in certain companies who actually champions certain cases; I think that is a very interesting proposition because I think that fundamentally when you look at the ageing of the population and some of the wealth statistics—and there seems to be some confusion or dispute over the wealth statistics—it does suggest that more people are getting older and most people have more money, certainly in terms of assets and retained saving, though it is less true in terms of disposable income. What does need to happen is that there needs to be a debate at board level within a lot of organisations, which need to challenge their marketing directors and their commercial teams on fundamentally are we almost following yesterday's business model and should we be considering where our industry is moving forward. The right platform for that I genuinely do not know, because it is quite a complex issue.

  Q467  Baroness Emerton: Do you think it might be an issue that should be taken up in the basic educational programme of marketing?

  Mr Diamond: I think so, absolutely, in as much as the stalwarts in the marketing community—and there used to be a lot of marketing training programmes—I started 17 years ago with Proctor & Gamble who are rather famous for their marketing programmes, and they taught an impressionable 21 year old how to market to housewives with children; I see no reason why they could not take the same individuals today and educate them about marketing to a 50 or 60 year old married couple, who have some money to spend and are very happy to invest in various products and services. I think it is just a fundamental lack of both awareness and also an increasing issue of what an ageing population really means in the UK.

  Q468  Chairman: Or, alternatively, how to market to middle-aged children with older parents.

  Mr Diamond: Absolutely, and I think that the dual dependency of looking after ageing parents and young children is an increasing reality, and I think that that could actually be the trigger that pushes this dialogue and discussion onto a broader spectrum.

  Mr Kohler: My Lord Chairman, there is no particular rocket science involved in designing a world for older people; we are talking about issues to do with diminishing sight, diminishing hearing, diminishing strength, those sorts of issues, and there is information out there for manufacturers if they actually chose to use it. One of my favourite anecdotes is of the concept car which a Japanese manufacturer put together about 15 years ago, looking to the older driver of the future. This had features like a head-up holographic display on the windscreen so that you did not actually have to look down at the dashboard, and things like that, prismatic mirrors, swivel seats, radar-assisted parking, push-button handbrake, all these sorts of features. They never moved to market a car like that, presumably because they do not actually perceive at the moment that there is a purchaser base to make it worthwhile, but the answers are there.

  Lord Turnberg: And a good seat, not one on the floor.

  Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lord Chairman, this document we have just had, I am not going to infringe on any other questions if I pursue it?

  Chairman: Pursue it, yes, indeed. This is the paper from Help the Aged.

  Q469  Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: Yes, I think so, it is about the designing and marketing of industrial and commercial products. Might I be bold enough to say that I do not think sufficient attention—indeed any attention in fact—is paid to some of the things that you have mentioned, Mr Kohler, like eyesight going, hearing going, strength going. So many things, like the instructions on packaging, are often in print that is unreadable unless you use a magnifying glass. There is far too much information, surely one can abbreviate that into a readable form for the older person. Pharmaceuticals in childproof bottles—you have to get a child to open it because some of the older people cannot do it, and so on. It does seem to me that no attention has been paid to people of 75 or 80 or over because it is the inability to use these very simple things that causes trouble to older people. One other grouse I have is that of young people on the telephone speaking far too rapidly so that you cannot understand what they are saying; there should be some instruction that if you are speaking to older people you should slow down so that people can in fact understand what they are talking about.

  Mr Kohler: You are absolutely right. It always staggers me that we see something like 40,000 people admitted to accident and emergency departments every year who have injured themselves trying to get into domestic packaging of one kind or another, using an inappropriate implement in an inappropriate way. There are all sorts of different trade-offs which do actually constrain the whole process. Pharmaceutical products, for example, come with pages and pages of small print because that is what they are required by law to actually produce and show what the product is exactly. In that pages and pages of script, the simple instruction about how you actually take the stuff probably gets, relatively speaking, lost. There are all these sorts of considerations; one of the food products which always causes a lot of concern is peanuts, when you really do have to have an applied skill to actually tear the foil at the top, but that is the best way of keeping a peanut fresh, so the peanut manufacturers to whom I have spoken tell me.

  Q470  Chairman: Thank you very much. Do you want to come in, Mr Sadler?

  Mr Sadler: Maybe we come full circle back to the point about the representation of the end user, whether you do it through awareness or the appropriate training. I would suggest that there are quite a few trade associations already out there and whilst I love your idea of having a non-executive in every single company representing the older person's interests, it might be quicker to target some of the trade associations and ensure that they are working to the right code of practice. My own organisation, for example, is party to such an association and I suspect even there they are not properly represented with an older person's representative.

  Mr Diamond: One recent positive step in this direction has been, as I have observed through going around and seeing different brand manufacturers, the implementation of the recent Disabilities Discrimination Act, where people have, by law, been revisiting largely their websites. It is now quite common to go onto an internet site and you see a button saying "If you would like this in larger typeface, please click here." That concept, while it is extremely complex to implement through other media, whether it is packaging or the instructions on how to take a product, has narrowed which is that people should have choice, if they are visually impaired or if they would like to be, when on the telephone, treated in a certain way, and there should be provision for that to happen. The Disability Discrimination Act obviously is more regulation and we would much prefer a self-imposed way of working with organisations to recognise that some people do have difficulty in hearing and so on.

  Q471  Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: If I may come back for one moment, My Lord Chairman, you mentioned the internet and websites and computers, but not everybody has in fact got a computer and not every aged individual knows how to work a computer. The thing that would be adequate for a teenager or a 20 or 30 year old is no longer applicable for an older person; they are frightened of computers and it is no use saying go on the web and find it, because they (a) do not know it, or (b) do not have a computer to get on the web in the first place.

  Mr Kohler: There is a hugely important point underlying what you have just highlighted there, and that is that as the majority of goods and services increasingly become marketed through the web and information is disseminated through the web and things like that, we do risk really marginalising a large chunk of our older population, and I think that is a serious concern across the whole of the social policy field.

  Mr Sadler: It is very interesting, there was a large European study, going back probably three or four years now where all these issues about how we represent goods and information to older people were discussed—it was called Safe 21. The one point that sticks in my mind is the strong view that if you are trying to provide information and assistance to that older person living in their own property, you should be using familiar instruments around the home and, even at that stage, we were very much embedded in the internet but the recommendation was to use the television, use the telephone, use the informal carer coming to the door rather than some interesting but new technology. I think an interesting prospect that we might look at for the future is of that these things do converge, so when we turn off analogue TV broadcasting and we get complete digital broadcasting to the TV screen, you will have access to lots of information in context, which looks very much like a familiar instrument, where you can scale the text, you can change the representation on the screen. I think that should provide a very interesting challenge for exactly the problem we are talking about today.

  Q472  Lord Broers: Unfortunately, I missed the visit to the Tunstall Group which I would have much enjoyed, but are you involved in that subject of simplifying the internet, for example? I am aware that there are several manufacturers in the world who are not so much targeting old people as targeting the Third World and just targeting the economics of the situation, so there will be a very simple internet access machine that is not a computer, you just turn it on and the internet comes up.

  Mr Sadler: That is right.

  Q473  Lord Broers: Then you turn it off and the internet goes away, so there are no clever computer skills required. Are you involved in that?

  Mr Sadler: I think that is very much a key point of interest for our technology. If you look at where technology is today, the proposition has moved on from you must have an alarm to let us provide functionality that helps, and I have mentioned intruder, bogus callers and all these sorts of issues that are the very logical next step. Let me explain one particular issue: when you have done all these things it is largely about supporting independent living, taking away risk, helping to provide a safety net for living in your own home. The concern I have is that once you have done that, of course, you have often assisted in some form of social isolation because you have that person living in their home, often on their own, albeit trying to access information on health and social care. Video links to family members and so on is very strongly suggested to be the next step of the technology. To me the next step is very much more the interfacing of that telecare world to those normal instruments I talked about, and the obvious one is the television. Our interest is very much in linking that alarm world to this new set-top box world to provide social information and assistance on the TV screen. You can imagine a whole host of those services which we can only speculate about today, but will be delivered via that mechanism.

  Q474  Lord Broers: I hope it will be very straightforward. The trouble is we fear and dread these extra set-top boxes, and we all know the most common item in our homes is the table full of remote controls, and nobody knows which one does what. I am a real advocate in this environment for a very simple, straightforward single interface, and if the internet could be provided as just another channel on the television set it would also perhaps be something that people could handle.

  Mr Sadler: I agree with you entirely. The simplification is not just for the older generation either; all of us would benefit from easier access mechanisms to this information, and when it is presented on a TV screen you are not going to be interested in playing around with the mouse and all these technical issues you have with a PC, so inevitably the next steps will integrate and simplify products in that environment.

  Lord Broers: My Lord Chairman, if I may also speak on a slightly different topic, I declare my interest as an old non-executive director of Vodaphone, and I would say that this phone problem is being tackled. Vodaphone is about to announce a product with nice big keys, that is just a phone and is not a camera and a golf swing machine and everything else you can imagine.

  Chairman: Lord Turnberg wants to come in and then we must move on to Lord Drayson.

  Q475  Lord Turnberg: Just one point, one of the drivers for all of this would be the commercial benefit to the companies, I suspect, but surely the company that produces an easily-opened packaged will have a commercial advantage over all the others that produce unopenable packaging. Cannot that message be got through? I am surprised companies do not do that, they could make it their point: our packets are dead easy to open.

  Mr Kohler: Your statement is so self-evidently true it is hard to actually work out what is going on here. I suspect it does come down to trust. If we stay with the packaging work for a moment, a reasonably easy to open closure unit on a package of liquid, a fruit drink perhaps, or milk, something of that nature, costs a few marginal pennies but it is a highly competitive market where price is really important when it is sitting there on the supermarket shelf. Maybe that odd penny or two is our problem.

  Lord Turnberg: I find that hard to believe.

  Q476  Lord Drayson: I would like to probe this issue a bit further actually, because we have heard evidence from a number of sources about this failure by industry to meet what is clearly a growing demand caused by this accelerating demographic change towards an older population, so I really want to try and get to the bottom of why is industry failing to do this, because industry does not usually fail to meet a market opportunity. Is it because there is a failure of technology or is it a failure of marketing? You touched on this already, but I would like to probe it further: is it this lack of willingness or understanding or preparedness to actually understand this particular market sector, or is it a failure of design and technology to be able to develop products which as well as being effective for your 30-something family with young children is also easily-opened by someone in their 70s or 80s?

  Mr Diamond: Can I attempt to answer that, certainly from a marketing perspective, and I am just going to draw on a paper which I authored last year with Professor Merlin Stone who is the IBM Professor of Relationship Marketing, which was called "Why Isn't Marketing Taking on the Over-50s Consumer?" We highlighted five reasons which I hope from a marketing perspective will answer that question. The background is that the big number that is quoted in the marketing community is that the over-50s consumers in the UK hold 80 per cent of all assets, 60 per cent of savings and represent 40 per cent of disposable income, so from a ruthlessly commercial perspective one would think that that makes them a very, very attractive proposition. We highlighted five potential reasons why marketing is not taking on the challenge—these are all hypothesis-based I should say. The first is a hypothesis that actually the wealth statistics hide the fact that the majority of accumulated wealth amongst the over-50s is very disproportionately held by a small number of the over-50s group—fundamentally it is held in illiquid assets, and when we talk about why are we not designing new consumer products packaging for an over-50s population, in almost every consumer product that you can think of the money is still with high volume, which tends to mean large family units, and that is one of the reasons why. It also suggests that if the majority of this wealth is locked up in property, in pension funds and so on, the wealth statistics might be somewhat misleading, and that in practice the 80 per cent of all wealth that is held by the over-50s cannot be easily accessed. The second reason—and I alluded to this earlier—is around the idea of an over-50's, a senior's mindset, no longer being valid. Everybody rolls out either Mick Jagger or Jack Nicholson as a role model—whoever thought that would happen—for describing the idea of you used to be a pre-50s, then you hit 50 and suddenly everything went downhill, and you certainly see a lot of research and verbatim quotes suggesting that is no longer the case. The third I have already alluded to, that appealing to the over-50s will alienate the mainstream, and certainly with the large budget brand owners we have had very open dialogues about if we are seen to have older consumers in our advertising, will that alienate younger consumers?

  Q477  Lord Drayson: If I may just interrupt you there, what was going on with Dove then?

  Mr Diamond: Dove is a very interesting example, and I should state that Unilever is one of my clients and we work with them on the question of targeting the over-50s consumers, and then also I, as Diametric, was quoted in The Times commenting on the Dove advertising campaign. They are being brave and they are being bold, and brave and bold sometimes lead to a marketing breakthrough in the commercial results, but often they do not. What Dove is seeking to do is differentiate itself from an extremely competitive marketplace by saying that, essentially—and I think this is a great comment on the beauty myth as we age—you should look the best that you can look, rather than if you are 60 you should try and look 20 or if your skin is this colour you should try and make it another colour. They are taking a fairly challenging approach and I am not party to their business results, I do not know whether it has been justified in terms of results. Interestingly, they have challenged a number of preconceptions about gender, about age, about physical shape and they have taken a very bold approach; personally, I like it but I do not know how the consumer at large has responded.

  Chairman: It is very interesting, it is actually an Aristotlean approach rather than a Platonic one, but I dare say they had not thought of it in those terms. Aristotle: everything is good of its own kind, which is precisely what they were doing.

  Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: They were not looking for the idea, were they?

  Q478  Lord Drayson: Moving off the marketing issues then to the technological issues, how much is it a failure of attitude and vision of the engineers in designing new products? I am particularly thinking of the way in which technology is having a greater impact on all of our lives, so those who are 40-something and grew up with the use of personal computers are going to be much more computer-literate as a generation 15 years from now. How much work has been done on just how much more expensive it is to design a mobile phone, or a computer, or a car, which is as useable by someone who is 70 as it is by someone who is 30, so you do not necessarily market it as a car for the over 70s group, but you make sure that everyone from 17 to 70 can effectively use the car? Is it about the specification that is put to the engineers in terms of the type of group, or is there actually evidence that it is more expensive—you mentioned the problem about packaging—to develop a product which is as useable by that older population as it is by the more able, young?

  Mr Sadler: Inevitably there is a mix of all those issues in there. Even if you look at our market—which is targeted largely at older people—if you look at the designers, they are still very much in the 30s age bracket and I see time and again errors of omission and commission on their part where they have not taken into account the use by older people. They continually have to be reminded to have the right interaction with the end users, to use the right specification to get back to the point about that particular market, so there is that side of it. The other thing we need to remember is that they tend to work primarily to the specifications that they are given, and then we come full circle back to the marketing element again, because certainly in all the industries I worked in in the UK and across Europe, the activity was very much driven to the specification of a market product manager, and if that market product manager has a particular belief in his core market, that will drive the outcome. Unless that person and his colleagues are aware of the adjacent markets and the different end users, they will not feature in the end product. At Tunstall we have deliberately targeted those end users, so maybe we are not as bad as some, but even there you can see those issues coming forward. For a general consumer product I can easily see how that might come about, that you are not tailoring it to older people for example. Maybe one way to view this is if you look at the people involved in the chain of delivery of a new product, yes, you are a designer in your 30s, but as you move through the various management ranks, whilst you maybe retain some influence, by the time you have got a real appreciation of older people's needs through direct contact with your ageing parents or family members, you are not at the coalface any more, you are not the one writing the software or designing the piece of plastic. It relies on another mechanism, somehow you have to get that back into the design team, and there is a conscious effort to do that. It goes back to the point made earlier, that it is about awareness and training.

  Q479  Lord Drayson: It is finding a mechanism whereby people can really use an in depth understanding of that more aged population, possibly because they are that generation themselves, and getting them engaged in the specification process and the design process of the product. You feel that that would lead to some positive change in the direction we want.

  Mr Sadler: That is right. If you look at the guidance facing a designer today—including the people we use as well—the documentation and the guidance for older people and more vulnerable people and how you design for them is there, but you have to go and look for it because it is not mainstream education. If an engineer walked in off the street with his PhD, it is very unlikely that he will have faced the detailed user needs of some of those client groups, so he will have had the grounding, he knows how to design an electronic product, to write software and so on, but he will usually not have a detailed appreciation of what it means for a disabled user or an older person. It will take some initiative on the part of the company to do that and maybe that is where you need the non-executive influence or the trade association influence to instil that as a later phase of training and education.

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