The Elderly Are the Next Big Growth Market for Chinese Tech Firms
Soon after dinnertime, Xiangyang Park in central Shanghai transforms into a ballroom. Loudspeakers pump out old pop songs as elderly folk sway under the plane trees. A picture of geriatric nostalgia—until you meet Ms Shi and Mr Zhou, a couple in their 70s whose enthusiasm for the waltz is matched only by that for their smartphones. Mr Zhou reads online novels. Ms Shi watches far-flung Chinese parks come alive with their own group dancing on Huoshan, a short-video app favoured by teens. Both love WeChat, a messaging app. “I can go without food, but not without my smartphone,” Ms Shi confesses.
She and her husband remain unusual. Less than one in three Chinese over 50 reported owning a smartphone in 2016, the latest year for which the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank, has data, half the share in America. A survey by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Tencent, which owns WeChat, found that only 17% frequently paid for purchases with mobile phones; close to half had never done so.
Photo courtesy of Bryon Lippincott.