Aging in Place Technology Watch January 2012 Newsletter

Tech for xHealth versus tech for seniors.  How odd, you say, why are these two categories in opposition to each other?  Of course everyone knows that the purpose of xHealth categories (mHealth and its various e-, Digital, Connected, 2.0, Unbound and other wireless variants) are to serve the older adults who have the chronic diseases that the new categories target, right? Ha. This is the ironic discontinuity of our technology times – at the moment that seniors adopt the Internet in notable numbers, the health innovators, nudged by their angel investors and VC backers will have moved to tablets and smart phones. The user they envision? He is a quantified and young self, busy and largely self-absorbed, except for bragging rights (my steps! my heart rate!) uploaded and online. By the time seniors (today’s boomers) get to swiping-and-touching tablets and smarter phones, wearables will make the Fitbit look like an IBM mainframe. For those of you who believe that the xHealths above think about seniors as they design and demo their apps, take a look at the linked exhibitors lists above. Then think about the rising costs of health care, incurred by the oldest in our society. How like the tech industry to offer technologies in search of a user standing just out of the developer’s visual field of view.

It has been a tech dreamlike start to 2012.  For those of you who were under rocks or away from the action, CES dominated the tech news of the month, and here are posts placed into one paragraph: Susan Estrada walked through 6 miles of exhibits looking for tech for seniors, I walked online through 6 virtual miles of pajama summaries and exhibitor lists also looking for senior-appropriate. Gizmodo reviewed the robots, and panel experts opined that the future is bright for reimbursement of care coordination and telehealth, two areas that have to date not been reimbursed. In that last article, studies were cited that showed significant reduction in readmission to the hospital for patients with congestive heart failure, a disease that worsens with age. The individual technologies from these events, when viewed one at a time, are intriguing, maybe even disruptive -- when they get out into their real world use cases, which brings me to…

CMS and Innovation – January was a big month.  On the cusp of CMS looking more closely at whether to reimburse for telehealth (long awaited and so far elusive) – January was significant for seniors and seniors-to-be. When health care reform was passed in Congress, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation launched a $1 billion grant project titled Health Care Innovation Challenge. For those who were not involved in any of the applications, here are the stated purposes of the grants: “The Innovation Center is looking for grant applications that at a minimum address: (1) how the proposed model will develop and/or deploy health care workers in new and innovative ways, (2) how soon the proposed model will become operational (e.g. it must be capable of coming to realization in 6 months), and (3) how the proposal will be sustainable over time.”  Thousands of grant applications were received -- many included uses of various technologies as one of the means to achieve the goals of the challenge. The grant application deadline was January 27 and the individual awards, ranging from $1 million to $30 million, will be announced in March.

And from other blog posts in January:

Not to be a spoilsport…but 'age-friendly cities' aren’t. US News Money ran an article this week about ‘aging in place’ – what a great idea, but…  Adding the 'but' is a correct assessment -- senior-friendly communities don’t really resonate as two words in the same sentence, although I suppose that is depending on whether you are imagining a young-aged (in either age or demeanor) senior. The AARP-sponsored state-by-state study cited underpins the issues, particularly with transportation. But what really struck me: "Of Americans over age 65, 21 percent do not drive," the report said. "This reduced mobility has a direct and often debilitating effect on older Americans' independence. More than 50 percent of non-drivers over age 65 normally do not leave home most days, partly because of a lack of transportation options." So let’s count that up, shall we? With 40 million aged 65+, 8.4 million of them are non-drivers, 4.2 million not leaving the home most days because of a lack of transportation. What are these people doing in their homes? Who sees them? How age-friendly is that?

Sustaining a good business idea. Why do initiatives falter? The most basic reasons are because of a market not adequately researched, focus groups not conducted, prices too high, too little margin, partners too late, or the latest and most frequently heard -- the timing/economy was just not right.  But sometimes it is because of a few missing basics. Here are my thoughts on five prerequisites for creating a sustainable company -- but I would welcome your suggested additions. and

When agencies save paper, seniors lose. My long-time love-it, hate-it bank enables those online to replace printed statements with statements that are viewable.  They encourage online access, but don't require it. In fact, many make quite an effort to save our governments from printing too much, and many more are on a mission to save those trees and be oh-so-green (paperless at home and Save Our Trees). So what other organizations will follow the examples of the Social Security Administration and most recently the Treasury Department? Financial services and banks have been pushing the go-paperless rock up hill for years, but it is always optional for the consumer. There has been some success (possibly due to the economy): paper consumption has, in fact, fallen a bit from 2010 to 2011. But the Treasury's mandate that Savings Bonds can only be purchased online is an ominous warning to the sizable senior population that still is not using the Internet - 42% of the 65+ are online, according to Pew Research, but only 30% of the 'GI Generation', those aged 74+, are online. No savings bond buying for them.

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*** And if you or your organization would like more guidance in any of these areas, learn more about Aging in Place Technology Watch offers of retainer-based and other services. ***

Hope to see you soon at one place or the other (noted on the home page as well). Increasingly my travels will include Washington, DC where we have established a 'base' of operations. Look forward to seeing you there!

All the best!

Laurie