12 most popular posts from 2011

So many posts, 2011 was such a short year. For those of you news junkies or folks with too many Google alerts, like me you must be drowning in recaps of the 2011 best movies, worst mistakes, top tech this, worst tech that. So as the year rapidly slips to a close, I thought I'd recap the most read posts from Aging in Place Technology Watch written during 2011, beginning, not so cleverly, from the beginning of the year:

January:  A Call to Action -- educate caregivers about tech they can use. In January, NAC published a report sponsored by United Healthcare which surveyed how caregivers view technology.* The 1000 online responders were all caregivers (providing at least five hours per week of unpaid care) and already were users of some sort of tech, as little as doing online searches for information. The report views these as 'technology-using caregivers', a somewhat alarming label in the context of their responses.

February: Market to Baby Boomer or appeal to all ages. Oops, according to the Wall Street Journal - did I say the word aging? Ugh, that's so yesterday. This was a spectacular and sometimes hilarious weekend of coverage -- we were treated to a full page on the marketing struggle to be subtle and euphemistic about this mind-boggling trend. We will for the rest of this post put a euphemism whenever we want to think about it. Why do we want to read so much about this phenomenon?  Well, silly, because baby boomers are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day (3.65 million this year and for the next 19 years). Never you mind that 1.7 million in the 65+ age range died last year, so in the near term that's a smaller gain than it looks -- and let's not forget that a few weeks ago, life expectancy shrank slightly. With the 'tsunami' of uh, living a long time having fun (see, there's a euphemism!), marketers have got to cash in.

March: Bridging the tech boomer-senior market divide.  2011 pushes one demographic segment into the next -- confounding marketers.  The terms 'seniors' -- and senior citizens, elderly, aged, older adults -- and various other monikers have been around for a long time. But it's a new year. This year, as 10,000 per day (680,000 this year so far) of those trend-shaking baby boomers turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare, seize on any remaining 'senior citizen' discounts, and view next year's eligibility to take full Social Security, the pre-senior baby boomer population will dwindle by more than 3 million. And so on for the next 18 years.  How can marketers straddle both sides of the boomer-senior divide at the same time? Perhaps they will attempt euphemistic subtlety - especially since everyone knows that baby boomers don't want to see themselves as old (or as represented by any of the above terms). So step one for vendors -- stop describing and marketing products by age category, so required and peculiar to the tech industry. Unlike cars, light bulbs, washing machines, radios, even bicycles with comfortable seats, where vendors don't know who might buy them, they market to all ages to be safe.

April: 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?

May: iPads in senior housing -- could be -- with help.  Hype alert -- for senior housing residents -- iPads may both amaze and confound.  Caution -- this is not a review, even though I have a brightly lit iPad next to me as I write this text on a PC. I still love my PC because I've become fond its high feedback QWERTY keyboard with its easy-to-find punctuation, mouse access to grabbing text and URLs easily, and other conveniences that have rather grown on me over the years.  I admit to loving the iPad for reading a book, as a home music streamer, watching a movie on a plane, looking at my street from a satellite, and examining news sites.  But this is not about me. This is about the use of an iPad in senior housing settings. For example, check out this video made by a Colorado news station that shows an iPad tutorial for the over-88 senior housing residents -- which I just watched for the third time.

June: Recently launched technology for aging in place. Innovation is alive and well in the aging in place technology space although it hasn't all been recently catalogued here.  So catching up with some recent press releases and product announcements from the April to June timeframe, here are more technologies for helping older adults. Each of these will include information from the vendor and a link to learn more at their website -- in addition, you may find a vendor press release in that category of this site (lower right side of home page). In no particular order...

July: Who will develop the Kinect caregiving app? Two disruptive technologies now in one company -- Skype and Kinect.  Looking back at the past year of technologies that could make a difference in the lives of older adults, I have often thought that Skype and Kinect, not smartphones and tablets, might be the two most significant. Skype because it brings long distance families together (so many examples!) and Kinect because it enables an interaction without the limitations of a mouse, keyboard, or controller. Now both of these are Microsoft's -- and once they've figured out how to commercialize them, we can expect Microsoft, as they have throughout their history, to treat them like platforms for a broad ecosystem of willing partners to extend into new applications.  And therefore, there will be apps that make a difference in the lives of older adults.

August: Are older adults disconnected from technology or marketers? What are the basic facts about boomer-senior connectivity?  Pew Research and others have been releasing report after report about technology use, but without a summary sheet, marketers might not be able to see the forest for the trees. So here are the basics from the past year of Pew-published surveys – to my knowledge, the only source for this number of categories that include 50+ age cohorts...

September: Prognostication about great gadgets (Susan Estrada).  Last Saturday, the AARP national convention featured a session called Great Gadgets.  Three speakers were on the panel representing AARP, the Consumer Electronics Association and Annenberg School at USC. Here is a summary of their prognostications and a few of my own: 1) content anywhere/everywhere; 2) few early adopters; 3) tablets are here to stay as the fourth screen; 4) the future is more tech, more places and 5) he who builds the product that needs the least support will win.

October: Care at home -- the continuum of oversight needs a reality check. Okay, okay, we get it – everyone wants to age at home.  How do we know?  AARP say so. Forget that AARP’s survey sample might be skewed towards the younger end of fifty- and sixty-somethings, not 80-90 year olds. Forget that life expectancy is lengthening -- the good life or the not-so-good – apparently indistinguishable among the life expectancy extender-types, aka the healthcare system.  Forget that this is a gloomy and isolating picture for those with limited transportation in their 80’s and 90’s, those living alone with mild to moderate dementia, and those for whom it is a great chore just to get up and about.

November: 2011 Tech Gifts for Seniors.  Last year's list of tech gifts that keep on giving is still pretty accurate in terms of categories -- eReaders and eBooks, video communication devices, game-related and music-related.  But be thankful, tech time marches on, and there are more variants of each, plus some new items to consider -- if you're in aging services or senior housing, pass some ideas along to residents or clients:

December: Mobile musings after the mHealth Summit. If you have a tablet, everything looks like an mHealth app. It was an mHealthiness week at the Gaylord as the NIH-sponsored mHealth Summit was convened for its third year, with 3600 enthusiasts and 300 exhibits. Walking around the non-Qualcomm and non-Verizon booths, it was one of those ‘Who ARE those guys?’ moments from Butch Cassidy. And I mean guys. Walking onto the Exhibit floor late Tuesday afternoon, there were guys everywhere and a bit of the American Telemedicine Association persona, with many devices and apps oriented toward tablet- and smart phone- intrigued doctors. And some were even for patients!  Read a great write-up by Lisa Suennen on Venture Valkyrie or check out just-the-facts iHealthBeat. The bottom line for me after a walk around and around – virtually nothing at this event (or at the ATA for that matter) demonstrates vendor interest in ‘seniors’ and chronic disease -- except these cool slippers in the Verizon booth that were developed by 24eight. That must make sense in only one sense – as of 2011, according to Pew Research, fewer than 11% of the 65+ population have a smart phone and 2% own a tablet. But oh well, no problem, notes the CDC, 80% of older adults have one chronic disease and 50% have at least two.