AT&T -- the senior wireless provider for apps and devices for an aging population? Were you surprised to read the Forbes article about AT&T's non-phone wireless network, the largest with 14 million connected devices? Probably not, but then maybe you thought it was interesting that their Emerging Devices division (cool!) is marketing several devices that could be more than useful for boomers, caregivers, and seniors. These include a small Garmin GPS locator, and -- Blue Libris (wearable health monitor), reminding me of Halo Monitoring's MyHalo chest strap. But then AT&T's Glenn Lurie said: "The company also sees a market with senior citizens, particularly those who opt to remain in their homes instead of moving to assisted living facilities. Someone needs to keep an eye, even if only remotely, on these senior citizens and clothing is likely the easiest way for an older person to wear a physiological monitor. AT&T also plans to sell monitors that come in watch form, for example, but a senior citizen with arthritis or mobility issues may find strapping on a watch difficult." Meanwhile, back over at Verizon, they still have Family Locator (yay!) but seem to be missing the Pill Phone (still available as an app on the iPhone).
Which brings me to a conundrum -- how can folks find apps/sites that would be useful for seniors but don't mention them? I receive e-mails from time to time that say 'this isn't specifically targeted for seniors, but it could be useful for them.' The venture-funded new app/site in question, NextDoor.com, is a collaborative social network for neighborhoods. It would be supremely useful for any street in which neighbors could use a tip or a contact from someone on their street -- including response to an emergency or help with a repair, not to mention offers to babysit and feed a cat. A geographic app like this will remain outside the sight lines of seniors and their families, however, unless promoted through organizations that know where and who they are. Now wouldn't that be a fantastic initiative for Area Agencies on Aging? And wouldn't it be great if when you searched for apps that can help seniors, you could find it, along with Family Locator?
What will the impact be with California's new telehealth act, passed in October? Supposedly the California legislature has moved the bar forward on legitimizing the use of telehealth to provide remote diagnosis and care as in "an individual may receive health care services from a health care provider without in-person contact with the healthcare provider." Of course the intent described was to improve access in rural areas (much of that vast state). As one telehealth website noted, the law, apparently the first among all states, means "including home monitoring for chronic disease such as congestive health failure and diabetes." This may be a game changer in the long, extremely slow slog of telehealth to become mainstream -- first via institutions like clinics and doctors' offices. Then, maybe in homes, once there is a greater penetration of broadband and wireless access among older populations -- who are largely the ones who have those chronic diseases.