Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
If you look at all of the factors together, entrepreneurs, executives of established companies, and venture capitalists should be able to synthesize and grasp the business opportunity staring them in the face. Offer services to the right market tier - either a supplier to or a family member of this well-heeled population, and what you see is what you can get. Read the links and brainstorm the possibilities.
1. 2008- three out of four boomers don't think they're going to move. Prior to the current financial meltdown, AARP surveyed and found a variety of distinctions between older, younger, men, women boomers on the subject of moving to a one story home, warmer climate, etc. But if 3 out of 4 on average aren't relocating, then what are providers like Verizon and Comcast offering them as content in the home?
2. 2009- Sure enough -- Boomers and seniors are staying home. Now the financial meltdown has happened, Pulte buys Centex to prepare for an upturn in home purchases that may not occur for a long while. So where is Home Depot's packaged home retrofit offering (not just for earthquakes in Seattle or saving energy)?
3. The population is steadily aging. Ironic, most firms avoid the word 'aging' in their marketing. But there it is. So let's call it the 'living independence' marketing campaign, introduce it in time for the 4th of July, and see Lowe's, Sears and Best Buy craft multi-dimensional offerings and low price points that help mitigate issues with stairs, entrances and exits, offer packages of stylish bath safety products, and bundles of computers and home networking solutions that Geek Squads can install?
4. Not enough caregivers are available to provide adequate care. Forget futuristic robots and training more nurses running into the home. It is amazing to me that despite multiple home monitoring vendors in the market now, that they are becoming available in selected communities, one reseller or facility at a time. Now I am back to the cable company/ISP, already in the home. Who would a DSL or cable installer or repair rep tell if they believed that a resident could use some technology assistance and/or monitoring?
5. Cost will drive home health care to replace institutional care of seniors. Turns out the VA has already figured this out and been using remote telehealth to great success, including video phone, messaging, biometrics, digital cameras, and telemonitoring. Next up -- city WiFi projects (which seem to be everywhere) can branch out. City-to-home, connect where you are, campus to condo. As we've seen with the WiFi initiatives, lots of innovation is possible once tech vendors and city planners get together.
6. Adult (55+) communities are headed to the obsolescence heap. So active adults bought into a wonderful lifestyle during the housing updraft -- but now they can't sell, so these communities are re-evaluating age restrictions and a damper has been put on developer enthusiasm. To get these properties sold to younger age groups, clubhouses will need game rooms, outdoor space will need playgrounds, marketing will need to match first-time home buyer messaging. What an opportunity for nationwide realtor firms and even Pulte -- which owns oodles of Dell Webb 55+ communities.
7. Alzheimer's -- incidence and cost are up -- so is fear. At the fear end, the cognitive fitness market of baby boomers seems to be ready, willing, and anxious, no doubt due to family histories. So keeping brains active, although not proven, feels almost like a preventative tactic. So who will bring the next low-priced (or free) BrainAge to market? Why not Microsoft as part of the next version of Windows 7? Maybe it's time for Microsoft to buy a brain fitness software company and start integrating. And then at the other end, it's time for Verizon and Sprint to add a few short words to their market messages about services like Chaperone: perfect for multi-generational familes. See? It doesn't even have to say 'aging'!
8. Technology -- there's more of it and it's more functional. As the 40+ vendors in the 2009 Market Overview make clear, there are many, many vendors of technology out there NOW. So service providers, integrators, resellers, distributors -- it's feasible to package and market these products -- at multiple price points, through press coverage of demos, advocacy from councils on aging, even with all of the fund cutbacks and economic slowdown. Really.
9. Baby boomers have parents in need. During the real estate and interstate migration boom, many of us spread out across the country. But with videophones from D-Link or Skype, a camera, and a PC, we can be connected, use home monitoring technologies for motion detection, help with med reminders, and offer a detectible cell phone. Vendors can message to a continuum of caring, during that interim period before boomers decide to yank mom or dad out of their home and closer to them.
10. Nursing home residents are moving back into community. For good or ill, communities are on a rampage to get individuals out or avoid entrance into a nursing home. So the most frail, most at risk individuals are going to find their way back into continuing care, independent living, apartments, and homes. Are home care agencies, personal emergency response vendors, and medical supply firms all thinking through the services and products that this implies?
Finally, a lesson in seizing opportunity -- the stimulus plan ink is barely dry and tech vendors are already running sales training programs to help non-profits, schools, agencies prepare grant requests. Training packages were being assembled before the bill was signed. From the WSJ: "With the recession forcing corporations and institutions to cancel projects, technology suppliers are eyeing the economic-stimulus package as an elixir to keep revenue flowing. It earmarks more than $100 billion that could be spent on information technology." You gotta love it.