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Can baby boomers afford to pay for parents' aging in place technology?
It's both a given and a strong conviction: Caregivers worry about the cost of technology to help seniors age in their own homes. And in fact, so does everyone else. Vendors and experts think or talk about the potential for all technology (or a vendor-specific technology) to be more affordable if it is to be adopted. Again and again, I hear the issue of 'who will pay' for technology to help seniors remain in their own home. And I detect a hope (and a bias) towards insurance reimbursment that will be government-directed and will lower the cost of care. I don't believe it -- and even more emphatically, I know that caregivers (aka the baby boomer children of those who are aging) can afford to pay.
Let's look at attitudes of caregivers for a second: We know that seniors and their caregivers are concerned about cost of technology. In fact, in the AARP Healthy@Home study, three-fourths or more said they would only be willing to pay less than $50/month for: PC's to stay in touch with those they care for; home safety and monitoring technologies; and health and wellness technologies. Lest you think this is just one survey, remember the 2007 Clarity survey in which 51% of baby boomers believe that tech will help their aging parents, but only 14% have looked for any.
Okay now let's get a reality check on those baby boomers: In Forrester's 2008 survey of consumers and technology, 76% of baby boomers are mobile phone owners, 77% go online at least monthly, 87% have PCs, 57% have broadband. And in other studies -- average income of older baby boomers, those who are more likely to have frail parents, is more tha $58,000, two-thirds have discretionary income.
So -- a family cell phone plan costs: $70/month on average. Let's say that the average cost of Internet service (via Cable, Satellite, DSL, or other) is $43/month, although when combined with TV, let's add another $55/month. So we're at $168/month to watch TV, talk on a cell phone, and access the Internet.
Let's add in average monthly costs for Netflix or Blockbuster ($18/month), or average monthly costs of GPS ($10), smartphones ($60-80/month), gyms/health clubs ($35/month) or other dues. Now that's another $133, bringing us to $301/month, what most baby boomers would refer to as costs they both need and want. (Not included: cost of devices phones, TV, game consoles, or any other one-time installation expenses.)
So when a technology to help their aging parents comes along -- like Verizon's 65+ calling plan for $29.99/month (or see a full list of choices), plus $3.99 for the Pill Phone reminder technology, a Mailbug for $9.95/month, a PERS device and monitoring servoce (average $50/month). We are talking about $93.93/month to connect to an aging parent in another city, remind them to take their meds, and offer them a wearable link to a service or person in the event of an emergency.Again, as with boomers, equipment costs are extra.
Split the monthly cost among 2 adult children (baby boomers have more siblings than prior generations) -- now it's $47. That's today's technologies, not a future set. I think we just not done a very good job of explaining the problem or opportunity for baby boomers. They can help their parents stay in touch, stay safe, and stay healthier -- without insurance reimbursement.
And for those who think the numbers above are incorrect or just plain wrong-headed, please comment or e-mail me!