Aging in Place Technology Watch April 2011 Newsletter

When disruptive tech disrupts -- hindsight is 20-20.  Even famous executives like Michael Dell can be surprised by market change -- his comment about the rise of the tablet: "I didn't completely see that coming" made me wonder a bit about his marketing staff. But it was his remark about Android that made me pause: "if you look at 18 months ago, Android phones were like, "What is that?" And now there are more Android phones than iPhones." Consider this description from another WSJ article, which notes that "the handset logs calling data, messaging activity, search requests and online activities. Many smartphones also come equipped with sensors to record movements, sense its proximity to other people with phones, detect light levels, and take pictures or video. It usually also has a compass, a gyroscope and an accelerometer to sense rotation and direction." And Android phones support voice-activated search, e-mail response, and navigation. It would not be unreasonable to expect all smart phones to do all of these things, oh, maybe by next Thursday. And the following version may be quite usable. 

>>> Read more . . .

MPTF and Aging: Taking Care of Our Own

Aging in a capital P Place.  The 90-year-old Motion Picture Television Fund campus in Woodland Hills is (total understatement here!) not your typical continuing care retirement community. It was developed for those who have worked in the industry at least 20 years, whether they were secretaries, set designers, cameramen, actors, directors, producers -- or the surviving spouses of same. The tour tends to stun even jabbermouths like me into silence after seeing the Roddy McDowell Rose Garden with the statue of Roddy McDowell in his role in the Planet of the Apes, after looking at the beautifully designed cottages and villas, seeing the on-campus movie theatre, then the in-house television station, the tiny John Ford chapel, the warm arthritis pool, watching the water aerobics class, peeking at the community gym and sitting for a few minutes with a charming resident and former film director whose wall was covered with signed photos from movie stars and a mind filled with memories from a long Hollywood career. >>> Read more . . .

Tech-enabled home care is betwixt and between

Caught in nowheresville -- neither nursing home, ALF or safe home care.  Today we are in a no-man's land of legislative initiatives to keep (or move) seniors at home and out of a shrinking number of nursing homes -- between the CLASS Act, CMS program experiments, PACE program here and Medicaid payment (see Leading Age/CAST report about which states reimburse PERS et al.) -- the only really clarity is that government agencies believe that the costs of care are lower at home.  On the other hand, we are at an amazingly under-deployed stage of the use of technology in delivering home care services (if you have any statistics that prove otherwise, please come forth!) So on the one hand, we chip away at the viability of nursing homes (1000 have closed within the past 10 years), we don't chip away at the cost of assisted living, however, which is financially out of reach when there is no pricey home to sell. Yet 24x7 home care is priced by MetLife at a US-wide average of $183K/year (in comparison to a US-wide average of $40K/year for Assisted Living).  So what are families to do? >>> Read more . . .

University research programs -- help make commercialization reality

Cathedral builders still wanted.  Nearly three years ago, in my naive tiptoeing into the tech market for aging in place, I wrote a dismayed blog post about how so many universities have age-related research programs that design and then evaluate efficacy of technology and older adults -- and then disappear when the students move on. Despite a then-slumping economy since October 2008 when that was written, there are still plenty of research programs that live on (see MIT AgeLab), studies have been done to prove efficacy and effectiveness of technologies to help people age in their own homes. So here's another research effort, this time through the University of Missouri and an associated independent living complex called Tiger Place. Nice work has been done to validate that passive sensor technology in conjunction with nurse care coordination can help keep at-risk seniors out of nursing homes (not unlike the Philadelphia PACE project with Healthsense). Intellectual property commercialization into products is not part of the Missouri project, however. In my conversation with lead researcher Marilyn Rantz, she noted her hope that prospective commercial vendors will come forth to license the AgingMO work for future products.  >>> Read more . . .

ALFA 2011 -- well-orchestrated, good intentions

Hearing the band play on.  Seeing an opportunity to attend a day of the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) annual Conference and Expo in Orlando -- I had to go -- hoping to see what's new and different.  These have been a difficult few years for this for-profit industry, with expansion constrained by a difficult lending climate, with filling capacity challenged by later move-in dates and shorter stays, with the need to do more innovative marketing to entice prospects -- and with those that do move in having both higher expectations along with greater frailty and other issues commensurate with age or need. This year I was surprised to hear talk of the need for wireless networks throughout buildings (and being deployed -- see ESCO's CareConnect, for example), that new residents are arriving with their laptops in tow. Given the age range as a result of older move-ins, there was also a continuing focus on memory care, safety and wellness. >>> Read more . . .

More technologies that can assist caregivers

Back from the Alzheimer's Association of the Northwest. Walking the aisles of the exhibit floor, one could get the impression that the key for family members and professionals is finding a good home care agency or assisted living placement. Which reminds me, that despite the best of intentions in the aging services worlds, I rarely see evidence that it is at the top of the priority lists of these organizations to ensure that those they serve know what technologies might be of some benefit to them. (The exception is LeadingAge (formerly AAHSA) which has sponsored CAST -- check out the link that LeadingAge CAST has just released an analysis of state payments for Aging Services Technologies (AST).   But I digress, here are some technologies to mitigate various issues confronted by caregivers -- some mentioned previously in random posts.  Please comment with other suggestions or any feedback about these vendors or suggest additional products: >>> Read more . . .

Aging in Place Technology Watch March 2011 Newsletter

Good luck dudes -- boost savings through virtual reality. So it seems that as a society, we are not great savers. Some researchers seem to think if young people could only imagine what they would look like in the future, they might boost their savings efforts earlier. Scientists in a Stanford lab are experimenting with the 'Proteus effect', morphing a photo of a 22-year-old into an image of what she might look like at 68 -- showing it to her through a virtual reality headset as her image in a mirror. Hmmm, now gray-haired, face sagging -- it's enough to make a 22-year-old nervous for a few minutes, long enough to answer questions about her attitudes on money, demonstrating newfound awareness and a desire to save. Maybe just looking at her grandmother, volunteering in an assisted living facility or making the trek to The Villages would produce the same 'scientific' outcome, prompting a 22-year-old to save more for retirement. The reality (not virtual)? In another poll, 18-34 year olds are more determined than older age groups to save money. Maybe Stanford could save a few bucks and apply its research to something more near-term -- how to train bankers. >>> Read more . . .

The real elderly are hidden behind demographic murkiness

Silly segmentation strikes again.  You probably didn't think about it if you read about HP's proposed new wristwatch in today's business pages of the NY Times.  Did you know that between 2008 and 2010, sale of watches fell 29% in the 18-24 age group, rose 33% in the 35-44 age group and 104% for those 65 and older?  Okay, no big deal, you say.  NPD Group, keeper of these stats, reports this as though a 6-year age range, a 9 year age range, and a 25+ year age range have comparable purchasing characteristics within the range. Misinterpretation opportunity looms large -- and if you are a watch manufacturer, it may not be time to plan on closing the business within the next 10 years based on whether 'young shoppers' may care.   In fact, it would have been great to ask a few older adults if they'd like HP's proposed wireless watch (with hands!) which could be programmed with canned responses and might have utility -- maybe even expanding the PERS opportunity downward. >>> Read more . . .

How can caring for the elderly be better work and work better?

Our future eldercare world -- too many of us, not enough trained workers.  One might want to argue with whether the current ratio is adequate, but as presented in the most recent journal of the American Society on Aging (ASA), Generations, it seems that an additional 3.5 million workers will be needed by 2030 just to maintain the current ratio of healthcare workers to an aging population -- across all aspects of care delivery.  How likely are these workers to be there?  A long list of negatives (stats and cited studies are from this journal) imperil the possibility -- here are just a few of them: >>> Read more . . .

Let's ask a journalist -- why don't older adults buy cool tech?

Do condescending headlines make readers loyal? Rant on. It's just a bit ironic, don't you think, within a single week to see both CNN Money (States Kick Grandma to the Curb) and Smart Money (Now in Vogue: Grandpa's Gadgets) join last year's New York Times' Helping Grandpa Get his Tech On headline? And let's not forget the Wall Street Journal's It's a Bummer to Be a Boomer. I wonder if these headline writers go to conferences to learn how to sneer? Try substituting a few other demographic categories of your choosing in each of these phrases and see how they sound. The mindlessness of so-called journalism is a distraction -- and no doubt deflects venture capitalist attention from what could be a remarkable opportunity if only it received clear-headed attention from journalists, investment analysts, advertisers and all of the other folk who help shape market interest. One of the dilemmas about this lack of interest is that the very products that get journalists all excited (like the non-stop drooling about the iPad) can be turnoffs for a variety of reasons that could include price, form factor, weight, functionality -- who knows? No one has bothered to survey why older adults aren't lined up outside the store. Probably because they didn't see themselves among the iPad's young, ad-click happy males -- even though the product might be useful to them as a primary computing device? >>> Read more . . .

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