Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
Chinese mandate visiting aging parents. This article is quite intriguing -- the Chinese are now experiencing the law of unintended consequences -- their one-child policy created a downstream eldercare issue. No siblings to split the responsibility, dispersed families and a government worried about the cost of care. So they have proposed a law mandating that family members visit their aging parents at a frequency to be named, plus 'pay medical expenses for the elderly suffering from illnesses and provide them with nursing care." I wonder -- what is a visit -- does Skype count? A phone call? How can this be verified? This was based on a very real worry by the government that the social net programs will be overwhelmed by 2020 (250 million over the age of 65). So isn't the exact same phenomenon happening in the US? And what does it mean to the future of safety net programs if 20% of US women had no children at all?
In Japan, more sensors research, not more deployment. One must appreciate the irony of this story -- Japan has the largest and fastest growing percentage of aging adults in the world and plenty of infrastructure: "90% of Japanese households are equipped with either optic fibers or fast-speed mobile connections." No need for a US-type rural broadband initiative. But still, not much in the way of deployment of sensor-based monitoring of seniors in their homes, which is explained by the lack of defined processes and appropriate uses of data -- and a lack of investment by the government to help commercialize technologies. This is surely a reminder that by the time US broadband infrastructure is pervasive among seniors (still around 70% left to go), one can hope that the rest of the equation for effective use (apps + training + support + affordability) will be understood.
Those dreaded baby boomers, this time the worry is Alzheimer's. To understate, the world around us is going a bit crazy -- one might be forgiven for not noticing Generation Alzheimer's -- the 'defining disease for Baby Boomers' -- as termed by the Alzheimer's Association. In case you didn't know, one in 8 baby boomers (10 million) will get the disease, it will sap government, healthcare systems, and families -- their point: government funding is too low (less than $500 million compared to $6 billion spent on cancer.) Meanwhile, MetLife and Harris polled and found that Americans are very worried about Alzheimer's (right after cancer), although 1 in 5 know nothing about it. Sigh.
Generation Expectation -- sounds about right. One could just as easily characterize baby boomers as 'Generation Cancer' (44% risk of some type), or how about 'Generation Obesity' (two-thirds) or 'Generation Work Longer'? I prefer to think of Baby Boomers as GenEx, or 'Generation Expectations' as coined by Joe Coughlin a few months ago. That means they will expect better advice than they can find today on reducing their risks of getting [choose: cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's]. For those coping with Alzheimer's among their family members, they should expect more on-the-ground support coming back to them from the local Alzheimer's Association chapters -- including support and operation of local adult day programs, better wander prevention technologies (not tech for finding the already lost), and broadly available respite programs. I've long thought that this would have more benefit to struggling caregivers than an elusive outcome from an emotion-tugging fundraising Memory Walk. Leave drug discovery of a cure to drug companies that want desperately to discover that blockbuster drug that may be (if you believe much hype) less than a decade away.
And finally, score one for Generation Expectations -- 'Frustration Free' packaging. Can you believe it? Easy to open and designed for all! Score two for Investor's Business Daily and its article about 'Gray Tech'.