One word to describe 2013 -- mobile. Like the word "plastics" in The Graduate,  if you asked investors what made them empty their piggy banks in 2013, this was the year of the Mobile Self. If it is smartphone-like and/or moves with you on your body, to mangle Arnold Schwarzenegger , why not invest a billion  or so. But a not-so-subtle change also marked the year -- what was once mHealth has migrated to become healthcare  (maybe because those downloaded apps were a bust)  and then Health IT  by the end of the year. Health IT is where the real budget and money are. To date, no one has figured out how to make money off smart phone apps except smart phone new-every-two carriers. In that light, here are the most read blog posts from 2013:
- Smart phones are impossible to use -- no wonder seniors refuse. Every time a technology divide is crossed, a new one is created. For years, we have documented the incremental growth in Internet use among older adults. And now, 41 million (13.3%) of the 315 million US citizens are 65+. Finally Pew announces, for the first time, that 53% of that 65+ population is online. Using whatever -- it doesn't say. But hang on now, almost 70% of affluent adults own smart phones . Yippee! But when it comes to the 65+ and smart phone use, the sleeping market giant of older adults online still dozes  -- only 11% of the 65+ have them. Although smart phones represent 56% of mobile phone use, senior smart phone users represent only 23% of all those mobile phone users -- and their mobile phone usage is the lowest percentage of any of their other online access methods. So why do you suppose that’s the case? It surely isn’t for lack of money  – they have significantly more wealth than younger cohorts.
- Can someone do this -- make a usable smart phone for seniors?  Pew’s most recent smartphone utilization among the 65+ market  in the US is still below 20%. There are two new entrants which -- on the surface -- seem unlikely to help. One of them is sold only in Japan and the other crashed during a test published in today's Wall Street Journal. For the former, the New York Times  noted that the Fujitsu Raku-Raku  ("easy easy") cell phone sold 20 million handsets in Japan over the past decade, with 10 million of them still in use. In partnership with telecom provider Orange , the company will introduce the Fujitsu Stylistic S01  smartphone into France – its first attempt to export outside of Japan -- and so far not available in the US market. This Raku-Raku smartphone handset has features that US manufacturers should adopt – firmer press required to select a dialing digit, brightening the screen for use in sunlight, a button to text GPS coordinates to get help, and (imagine that!) training on how to use the phones. Meanwhile, Doro has sold 4 million of its feature phone senior handsets  and will soon offer more smartphones .
- Family caregivers wanted mobile caregiving apps – they’ve got them now. Caregivers could see the future of mobile apps – and it came to pass. A few years ago, the National Alliance for Caregiving and United Health Group published a study, conducted during 2010, called the e-Connected Family Caregiver: Bringing Caregiving into the 21st Century , which surveyed family caregivers about their propensity to use any of 12 different technologies to help them with their caregiving responsibilities. The conclusion: "two-thirds of family caregivers who have used some form of technology to help them with caregiving believe web-based and mobile technologies designed to facilitate caregiving would be helpful to them." But as KHN noted below, it's the wild west for (40,000!) smart phone apps -- doctors are suggesting, but not yet prescribing apps for the e-Connected caregiver.
- Five Directories of Technology Products for Aging in Place.  Directory of tech offerings -- is there one? Are you often asked the question – where is the list of technology products for older adults – is there one Consumer Reports-like resource that reviews and will help me figure out what is available that could be useful for an aging relative or client? Unfortunately, there really isn’t one source, but there are some resources that could be useful – here is a getting-started list that you can feel free to augment with comments.
- Six New Technologies for Aging in Place. The fall is an event extravaganza – and oh, tech products to consider. Taking a look at AgeTech West  in November, the mHealth Summit  upcoming in December and the recent Health 2.0  and Connected Health Symposium  events – and coming in 2014, there will be both Digital Health  and Silvers Summit at CES . So as not to miss too many, here are a few selected from the near-term events, as always, hoping to avoid the not-yet-launched as well as including those for caregivers as well as care recipients. And please note – the descriptions of these come from the websites of the companies. Hint to founders – a website that starts with video is a bit lean. Paragraphs of text would help viewers better understand the value proposition – and be searchable!
- Five New Technologies from the What's Next Summit . What's next in tech for older adults. At the Aging in America 2013 event in Chicago last week, attended by more than 2000 professionals who serve older adults, there were several tracks within the large event, including the Business Forum on Aging, National Alliance of Caregiving Coalitions and for new entrants targeting the boomer/senior market, there was a chance to hear speakers and meet other entrepreneurs at the 10th Annual What's Next Boomer Business Summit 2013. At the Summit, these startups were eager to meet with AARP executives, investors, and other players in the space (like GreatCall and Philips Home Healthcare ). So here are five of the new products/services from those in attendance -- listed alphabetically; all of the material comes from their own websites.
- What’s old has become new again – the halo of aging in place.  Henry Cisneros discovers aging in place. In August, 2012, Kaiser Health News published an interview with former HUD Secretary, Henry Cisneros , who talked about his mother who is aging in place, following some well-considered home modifications. Cisneros also edited a book, Independent for Life  – and just published an op-ed in the Miami Herald discussing this new frontier in housing , using his own mother as an example. Home modifications enabled her to remain in her home -- she insisted and he was apparently too cowardly to argue. She is described as widowed, 87 years old, requiring an alarm system, her home in a "neighborhood somewhat in decline." Her neighbors on three sides had passed away, and he admits that even though he visits her frequently (every other day, come on, now really???): "Aging in place in that neighborhood means older women living on their own." Looking ahead: he could have noted that one-third of the 90+ live alone – and while aging in place sounds pretty good, one must pause and remember life expectancy and personal expectation – half of the 65+ today expect to live to 90. And they're right. If a woman lives to 65, she is likely to live to 85. But by age 90, there is an equal likelihood  of each of these scenarios: she will live alone, or with her relatives, or in some type of institution.
- Helping seniors get online -- whose job is it anyway? It’s a puzzlement – finding the organizations trying to get older adults online. Last June I wrote a post about getting older adults online  – in particular, the age range from 75 and beyond – only 34% of those folks were online at that time. Yet so many organizations offer online assistance in coping with a variety of concerns of older adults, whether it is taxpayer assistance , help with online banking , obtaining coupons for grocery savings , even a Geek Squad coupon from AARP -- and it is, naturally, available online ! -- to help with problems that older adults might have using computers. Duh. And a new campaign, Everyone On , has produced Connect2Compete , a public-private partnership that has been launched to help low-income individuals cross the digital divide  – but only if they have a child on the ‘federal free and reduced-cost lunch programs.'