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Mobility and PERS, boomers and shifting expectations
Another week, this time a look at the future of healthy aging. Yesterday kicked off the first of a two-year Think Tank initiative sponsored by Philips through its Center for Health and Well-Being. The purpose of this Think Tank is to consider and flesh out ideas about what it means globally to age successfully -- with implications about future requirements for policy, health systems, and technology use. It was a fascinating day and I will speak more about it as materials from the day are produced and distributed.
Boomers -- the next 20 years. One of the participants was Rod Falcon, Director of Health Horizons at the Palo Alto-based Institute for the Future. Rod provided a report IFTF prepared with AARP in 2007 called Boomers, The Next 20 Years, which offers guidance about where the market for devices and social media products must move. The report analyzes and aggregates multiple trends: as noted here as well, IFTF's report observes that boomers are actually 'getting younger'. Combining median age and life expectancy, the report notes that the population is getting 'younger' relative to overall lifespan. As boomers age, they will seek more health benefits in all products and services.
Because the tech works, the PERS market can shift direction. As boomers age 'younger' relative to life span, so too, seniors have changing expectations -- tech availability makes this possible. This blog has frequently commented that distance constraints of traditional PERS devices are vendor self-limiting -- GPS trackability features will enable device usage away from the house. At the American Telemedicine Association meeting last week, Qualcomm announced a partnership with AMAC to offer a mobile PERS. Yesterday, MobileHelp received notice in the NY Times gadgets blog. We can expect that more announcements will be forthcoming from vendors large and small this year, including a GPS shoe for those with dementia -- expected to be on the market this summer.
It's no joke that 60 today is younger than 60 of yore. Combining boomer expectations with in-market technology capabilities is essential. The ''sixty is the new 40" joke is more of a reality than joke -- and for some, 80 may be the new 60. While lengthening lifespans present many worrisome societal implications, they offer clear instruction to marketers of products for enabling successful aging.
Expand the use case. If the technology is available to offer broader use (as with mobile PERS), and you can provide it at a reasonable cost (to you and to the customer) then you must do so -- rather than constrain a product's use. Perhaps marketers think they know their target market well -- frail, older, lives alone, doesn't get out much, avoids gadgets. But every year is another year in which a family member may talk or demonstrate use of GPS trackable cell phones, smart phones, move-by-move talking directions, webcams, online chatting. These family members are deeply engaged in social networks of people like themselves; so will their older family members. As older becomes the new younger, expectations are shifting via viral marketing or perhaps reading the Gadgets blog in the NY Times.