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Updated (8-25-2012) Aging and Health Technology Report Click here

Updated (7-31-2012) The Future of Home Care Technology Click here

Published (2-14-2012) Linkage Technology Survey Age 65-100 Report Click here

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What types of firms enable technology innovation for older adults?

For engineers and visionaries – a grandmother inspires. I hear it so often – the entrepreneur’s grandmother, father, mother inspired the inventor to move forward with inventions – that includes long-time players like GrandCare Systems, It’s Never Too Late (IN2L) or Eric Dishman and Intel -- good examples – but it also includes brand new entrants like myLively and Serality. Or an inspired and wealthy founder with a long history of entrepreneurship and business tries something new – GreatCall (from the telecom industry) and now CareZone, founded by an ex-Sun executive.

The corporate opportunity – seen, attempted, and sustained. Fujitsu doesn’t quit – this week’s mention in Engadget of their prototype of a new GPS cane not only provides directional guidance through visual symbols – no multi-lingual speaking required -- but it alerts if heart rate is out of whack or it enables a remote administrator to set a directional course.  Philips of course, has as one of its missions to innovate and distribute technologies for older adults. Qualcomm has sustained interest in providing platform-level innovations and seeds many startups, including Lifecomm – which then seems to have rolled into another big company (and its role in an NCOA foundation) -- Verizon.

The grants – getting things started. Between the NIH, NSF, and CMS innovation grants, not to mention specific small grants for an on-campus entrepreneur here, and an enterprising startup there, grants get things going for many companies, including AFrame Digital or MedSignals.  For reasons that are not entirely obvious to me, the grant-funded companies often seem to continue down that path, playing a technology role in lengthy studies to determine efficacy – and perhaps awaiting that single study that will drive committed CMS reimbursement. Otherwise, there seems to be no rush for the grant-funded to find a specific corporate opportunity to scale through those partnerships into the broader market.

Organizations whose mission is to help older adults are missing in the innovation action. Washington is filled with associations whose charter it is to help older adults – the Social Security Administration, CMS, AARP, Administration on Aging (AoA), NCOA, N4A, the Long-term Care Coalition, the National Alliance of Caregiving Coalitions – the end of the list is simply because this paragraph was becoming unwieldy. Which of these organizations sees its mission to guarantee that technology innovation for older adults is funded, developed, distributed, successful, and collects input from those experiences to recommend other technologies?  Which of these organizations sees an opportunity to lead the others into encouraging Fujitsu or Philips to create just-right technologies and tech-enabled services that their mission-based constituents need and expect?  Given that we are in the 21st century, that this is 2013, that the technology has already been invented, why not play a leadership role?


Laurie, your post on what firms are enabling technology for older adults and what roles the advocacy organizations in DC should play hit a chord with me. I am an IT sort, yet worked in aging services for a bit and it killed me to see how hard it was to move anything forward in aging services. Because of the chaos that is the funding mechanism for so many of the aging providers, it's almost impossible to get anything innovative done.

Perhaps with the popularity of your blog you can raise attention to the issue. n4a, in their defense, has tried to step up, but is only one voice. They've made progress in service delivery improvements through the use of technology, but getting the systems deployed to users in different states using different systems who don't necessarily want to change and whose state either doesn't see the need or can't fund them, is a huge hurdle.

As for CMS...that's a subject for an entire other blog.

Thanks Laurie for this collection of organizations promoting innovation for senior Americans. I want to let you and everyone else know that the AARP Foundation is actively seeking to identify and encourage innovation focused on the needs of low-income seniors. The Foundation does this through the AARP Foundation Prize, which rewards competitors in existing university business plan competitions who develop technologies and solutions that serve the needs of low-income seniors in the areas of hunger, income, housing and isolation. As of March 2013, the AARP Foundation Prize is available in the following 8 universities: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Duke University, George Washington University, Georgia Tech, University of California, Davis, University of Portland, University of Washington and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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