For tech marketers -- functionality matters more than demographics

Life marches on – at the older end, baby boomers are on Medicare. A few years ago when I began writing this blog, a senior was a senior – 65+, albeit with the potential for a very long life. As boomers stomp into Medicare eligibility at 10,000 per day, they too have something in common with seniors. But we don’t describe them as seniors. (How funny will that be in 10 years when they are 77?) Anyway, in a world in which women outlive men, in which there is so much buying power in the so-called world of baby boomers, shouldn’t marketers get really excited about marketing to boomers? I mean they represent 80 million people.  And according to the Forbes article about the Longevity Economy, the disposable income for Americans aged 50+ was more than $3 trillion. Hint, 50+ is the AARP designation for its membership and spans age 50 through the oldest old. Luckily, the youngest boomer aged 49 turns 50 next year – synchronizing boomers and AARP. >>> Read more . . .

Crisis avoidance with web cameras and other technology – why not?

Why wait for a crisis to decide to deploy web cameras in senior care?  Did you know that, according to the Administration on Aging, this  is the year of elder abuse prevention? Perhaps it should be the year for webcam deployment in all senior care settings, especially now that that the Frontline story aimed an investigative spotlight at assisted living. So I heard a story this week about an elderly person abused by a home care worker – not surprising, really, when a care recipient is frail and no one is around except the care provider.  The family subsequently placed a web camera in the home.  According to a family member, it was quite a deterrent for the subsequent hires, made aware from the start about its presence. Plus, it was as an enabler for day-time check-ins while an adult daughter was at work.  So why aren’t web cameras ubiquitous in senior care settings – especially to observe care activities like entrances and exits of workers when residents are less mobile, in bed or stranded in wheelchairs? Your opinions are welcome: >>> Read more . . .

The Village Movement -- as it grows, grow the tech depth as well

Beacon Hill Village created a concept out of need...  Last week a PBS broadcast was dedicated to the topic of aging in place within the pioneer community of the ‘Village’ movement – Beacon Hill Village, launched 12 years ago by Judy Willett to help seniors stay in their homes longer. That’s not a small trick if you consider that Beacon Hill is a neighborhood of steep cobblestone streets, no easy-in subway stop, and --- argggh – every year, residents – most are in their 70’s -- must cope with winter! Today Beacon Hill Village has 400 members who benefit from aggregated services that include "social clubs, weekly exercise classes and lectures, transportation to doctors’ offices and grocery stores, and access to reduced-fee home medical care and home repair services." >>> Read more . . .

Social networks are too immature -- let's wait for the upgrade

Has social networking exploded among seniors? What should you think when you read that 43% of the 65+ (n= 356) are using social networking sites? So let’s get real -- that likely means Facebook, even though Pew wanted to throw in Twitter (and also LinkedIn and Google+). Today, 5% of the 65+ use Twitter and there's always a marketer who thinks one of the other new pet rock tools would be a good way to reach boomers.  But as of 2012, few seniors were using Pinterest, Tumblr, or Instagram.  So do you get excited and want to start marketing your senior products through Facebook ads? Stay calm -- we don't even know what 'using' means. Wolfram Alpha recently published a study – summarized in this article – about Facebook usage – 1 million Facebook users have opted in to let them look at this anonymous but interesting data set. While admittedly, this is a fraction of the Facebook population, one of their conclusions was: "Stacked against the U.S. Census, the age distribution on Facebook is extremely skewed toward younger people." Duh, no kidding. Good thing, too -- lurking on Facebook may not be so good for our mental health -- although some recommend it as a way for older adults to reduce loneliness. >>> Read more . . .

Why not apply Federal Regulations to Assisted Living?

When the lights go on – much becomes visible. Warning – rant on. I have to ask, what do you think is the biggest fear of the Assisted Living industry? Is it PBS and documentaries about their industry?  No, many have rationalized their own organizations or will be contemplating new ways to manage bad publicity and thus prepared, they moved on. Lawsuits? They are certainly an issue – and cost time and potentially substantial amount of money. But risk managers and lawyers are around to help avert through policy and procedures, training, etc.  No – the real and pervasive fear of the industry is federal regulation. And how hard they work to avoid it at all and enormous cost – lobbying is vigilant and continuous to ensure that the industry remains within the regulatory (and wildly varying) domains of the states. >>> Read more . . .

PBS shines a bright light on Assisted Living – will change follow?

By now, you’ve probably heard about or seen it.  PBS’ Frontline and ProPublica spent a year researching care, life and wrongful deaths in the largest of assisted living companies, Emeritus Senior Living. After the broadcast, some honest self-examination, but also those expected positioning statements and self-righteous comments emerged from Emeritus, industry observers, plus defensive responses from the industry lobbying leaders – ALFA and Leading Age. Larry Minnix (Leading Age) tells ALF executives to ask themselves, “What are your staffing levels?” Indeed. And we should ask as well. What should they be in an AL memory unit? He doesn’t say. Read the Frontline attached interview with a regulatory agency CEO -- and how variations across state boundaries can be justified. Really. So shouldn't facilities be shut down after horrible incidents like these? Remember the Miami Herald series Neglected to Death? Not just one company (as in the Frontline story) but many organizations, large and small, throughout Florida, not just one incident but multiple. As with many incidents, company growth may slow a bit, organizations may consolidate under new ownership or new names, but rarely are they shut down. >>> Read more . . .

Healthcare has too much tech focus, too little benefit to seniors

It’s a new era – patient engagement – but does that include seniors? According to a recent health journal article, welcome to the era of patient engagement. What’s that?  “Empowering patients to actively process information, decide how that information fits into their lives, and act on those decisions is a key driver to improving care and reducing costs.” Like many of the heavily-invested Health IT improvements over the years, patient engagement strategies offer the industry a feel-good approach to preaching to and reaching the converted – those tech-enabled individuals with a fetish for looking stuff up and tracking it (see Google Health). Ah, but those with the least access to technology may need the most engagement -- they're not likely to peer at their patient portals. At last Pew count only 13% of the 65+ even looked online for information as a diagnostic tool. And fewer than half of those followed up with a medical professional based on what they found. >>> Read more . . .

Looking back: What happened with those tech predictions?

Let’s reflect on the market of tech for older adults. In December, 2011, a number of assertions were made about the future – as we move forward, let’s look back and examine if these predictions came to pass, or if they were more fantasy and hope.Those predictions opined that mobile devices would become more important and cut into the house-bound tech market. And tablets and smart phones are transforming multiple tech markets that impact seniors and their families – including apps and senior-specialized PCs, feature phones, and even game consoles like the Wii.  Consider the specifics: >>> Read more . . .

Why free software costs us time and time again

See the new features in THIS upgrade – now go forth and suffer!  I admit it. I am one of the millions of Android phone users. That makes me something of a glutton for Google-induced pain. This week, I was trying to provide helpful navigation assistance in downtown Boston, where any navigational aid is a blessing. I discovered that Maps and its associated and fast-talking Nav app were somehow upgraded -- and thus rendered mysterious. Maps still works – if you don't mind two crashes, the third startup is a charm. But it now has an unrecognizable set of icons and hidden options – and Nav is no longer a separate app. Sadly, I was not helpful navigating. Later I learn from the angry hordes on the Android forums that there is an Uninstall option to enable return to the previous version. And further research reveals a setting for the aptly named Google Play Store -- Do not auto-update apps. For good reason. The default is, naturally, the reverse. >>> Read more . . .

Who should monitor the quality of apps for boomers, seniors, and caregivers?

Five Market Overview versions later -- let's recap.  Launching a business venture takes excessive confidence -- or an extreme lack of common sense. Four years ago, after 7 months of random ranting in a blog, an awkwardly-titled Aging in Place Technology Watch analyst business was launched at the 2009 What’s Next Boomer Business Summit. Both of those were in conjunction with posting and promoting an initial report -- Technology for Aging in Place Market Overview (2009).  Now more than four years later, an updated version has been posted on this site. The press release titled "The Longevity Economy Goes Mobile" is ready -- and so there's time for a bit of reflection. Since 2009, how much has changed: the environment in which technologies are discovered and utilized is radically different. Entrenched social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn et al. make it different; the rise of smart phones and tablets as platforms, so different; and the rise and fall and rise of crowd-funding make starting up a company very different; boatloads of blog sites offering a cacaphony of tidbits also makes learning about new technology difficult -- and different. >>> Read more . . .

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