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Who will buy all the useful technology for seniors -- and by what date?
Senior housing organizations want to accelerate development and adoption. Reading an interview with Majd Alwan, SVP and Executive Director of Leading Age’s CAST group, you would believe that we are on the cusp of widespread adoption of technology for older adults in the senior housing: Says Majd: "CAST brings developers—big ones like Phillips and Intel-GE Care Innovations, all the way to small start-ups—together with forward thinking and pioneering service providers who understand the value of technology and are exploring technology-enabled care models and implementing them in their communities, and researchers."
Grant money is moving – to accelerate development and adoption. As I already wrote, Link-age is launching a $20 million ‘gray’ fund to accelerate the ‘creation of products and services.’ CMS just completed a massive initiative to award grants in Health Care Innovation. This week the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA --- yup, they runs CES) Foundation announced its first grant ever -- to "bring Self Help's Virtual Senior Center project to more locations, eventually bringing it to nationwide scale."
Living laboratories are being launched to accelerate development and adoption. As previously noted, Georgia Tech, U of Missouri, MIT, and others are creating/building living laboratories that will help in accelerating development and adoption of technology to help older adults. And multiple other programs are regularly conducting research on the efficacy of technology such as Internet use on issues like social isolation and depression in the old.
But what is the target date for technology adoption? Over the past four years, numerous initiatives, not unlike the current wave, were launched and abandoned and new ones are underway. But these statements are still true: end-user technology for seniors such as sensor-based monitoring or communication-engagement – these are still under-adopted in senior housing -- see ALFA’s Best of the Best awards -- home care, and generally not sold in retail settings. How do I know this? From the vendors themselves who are still rooted in pilots, small deployments, RFPs, and the category of ‘emerging’. Meanwhile, healthcare, Alzheimer’s care, and deployment of electronic medical records have grabbed budget and attention in senior housing – and home care organizations are just starting to consider evaluation and future deployment.
Who will buy and what is preventing broad-based adoption now? I am reminded of the plaintive song in Oliver, Who Will Buy? But we’re not talking about sweet red roses, we are talking tech for the 5 million seniors over the age of 85 who are likely NOT in the above pilots. We are talking about Pew’s survey showing that 47% of those aged 65+ are not online, 66% of seniors age 75+ are not online, and 79% of those age 75+ do not have broadband in the home, a really good reason for not being online. What do you bet that those who could most benefit from the efforts to accelerate development and adoption have no idea that this work is underway and no good way to find out? If the broadband, Internet adoption numbers of the older age groups were higher, perhaps user interest, willingness to buy, and barriers to adoption would be an obvious short list that vendors and their champions could easily overcome. So where is the overarching program to pull all of this great work together into a single national strategy, close the gaps in access, and really accelerate adoption of useful tech for a population that could benefit?