Technology can help people stay at home longer.
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Disconnect between university research and go-to-market product viability?
I admit it. This blog has only been in place for a few months and already I am just a little tired of reading and posting press articles that describe a new YARC (Yet-Another-Research-Center) examinging technology to help seniors age in place. There seem to be plenty of grants from the federal government (national Science Foundation, National Institute of Health and perhaps more) to help universities do research on technology for aging in place. I won't even begin to provide a list (two different Texas school announcements just recently, plus University of Florida, Georgia Tech, UC Davis, Drexel, etc. etc. etc. But if someone has a full list of all the programs, please advise -- I'll post and refresh it regularly.
These researchers are justifiably proud of their model homes, apartments and showcases (especially at aging-related events) that demonstrate their engineering vision for the future of aging. They have plenty of categories covered: programs looking into robots, motion sensors, cameras, wearable technology. The press loves it. It's all good. Don't get me wrong. And I realize I should have patience. It's early.
But then I search the internet looking for more companies than GrandCare or Quiet Care in the home monitoring industry -- so far haven't found any that are viable. Or any more devices that bypass PC's and make email available to elders. Or the absence of any motion sensors or webcams in the assisted living facilities I visit. Or the lack of really robust and accepted medication reminder offerings from well-known companies.
And I look at how very willing seniors are to use these products. Yet that AARP study showed quite a lack of awareness among seniors about product categories surveyed. Of course, why would they be aware? The vendor list is relatively short. Geriatric care managers and councils on aging generally don't know about or promote their availability. (I realize that there are exceptions, including this unusual non-profit (and fitting location) Silicon Valley Council on Aging.)
The bottom line -- I do not see any pressure or urgency in any of these programs to promise deliverables with product partners by a specific and near-term deadline, or to aggressively propel research conversion into products. Otherwise I am sure that by now I would see a long list of vendors in just the above categories alone. So let's call me ignorant. I'm open to being set straight on this. Where are the products that should emerge (quickly) from research that confirms usefulness of concepts and design? I realize that everyone is getting prepared for the coming tsunami of baby boomers who will need these technologies. But there are plenty of seniors who need them right now. Urgently.
I'm just asking.