Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
Seriously – are people aging? Rant on. Yesterday's WSJ article on technology was so Groundhog Day. But it must have shocked the Wall Street Journal reader – 72 million Americans will be 65 and older by 2030! Well, actually, those are the Wall Street Journal readers: average age of 57 today – who will be 73 by 2030. So we’re not talking about Grandma, sports fans. The excitement? Technologies for a concept called 'Aging in Place.' Well, maybe it’s not all that new. Scientists at universities – where else – are 'sparked on a quest' to research technologies to help people get help in their homes if they fall, since it turns out that 1 in 3 seniors age 65 fall each year. Actually, when it comes to falling and injury like hip fracture, it’s those WSJ readers who will be over the age of 75 by 2030 who will be at risk of falling. They want alternatives to 'wearable alarms' and web cameras – which, according to the article, are so…yesterday. The 'new' technology incorporates – get ready – radar (Villanova research), motion sensors, and cameras. Ah, but really, it looks like they were all around, yesterday.
Who knew that wearable was over? Certainly not the resellers in the $1 billion+ PERS market – they understandably think they have something of a cash cow of recurring revenue – with one-time charges plus monthlies that can last several years at least. Not for the Health Datapalooza attendees – just getting their companies into gear to actually do something with all of those transmitted terabytes – see Jonathan Bush and the cutely-named athenahealth. See Intel Lab’s We the Data. (I love that title!) And definitely not the younger set, since wearable just became cooler still, see the Apple Developer conference. See CES and beyond – those include fitness gadgets, smart phones, and Apple and Samsung watches-to-be which will measure health this-and-that.
Sensors in a senior’s home – been there, done that. This category has been around for nearly a decade (see QuietCare launch) – and that doesn’t count the $13 billion home security market, where we the people (or our security service providers) have been watching our driveways for decades. But despite the Colorado, Villanova, and Missouri research – which can be added to multiple research projects in age labs far and wide – sensors for home monitoring of seniors in independent living never did see a groundswell of adoption. Why do senior-focused home monitoring companies (radar, thermal, optical or otherwise) end up including or partnering with a PERS provider? Is it because George – or Mary -- may walk out of the radar-enabled apartment into the garden – and even down the block? Or get into a car and drive away?
Monitor the person or the place? Wait, who used that phrase? Actually, you might have read it on this site in 2009. That’s a major dilemma for this industry, which must rely on the most limited and infrequent statistical samples of which seniors who are at risk for falls actually use any technologies at all. So if 1 in 3 people older than 65 are falling each year, what do they do after the fall? Will they buy sensors? Now back to another variant of this 'news' story, when a writer inquired of the nurse, Kelly Nestor, from the radar project: Did she knew of any studies that have demonstrated a tangible benefit to the people who have used these devices? Nestor seemed rather surprised. "I don't know if there have been any qualitative studies that have been done about that at all, in terms of the elderly population." Or quantitative. Rant off.