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Older adults need vendor empathy to attain digital literacy

Picking on Apple because they are there, but of course they are not unique. What’s new with iOS 16 on the iPad? Tap this on an iPad and you will see a screen that demonstrates ‘Collections’. And behold there’s the SNOOPY Show. Below that, advice on how to share what you’re watching on Apple TV (pictured are several smiling youths).  So easy, on your Siri Remote, press and hold a button to open the control center, select the SharePlay button then choose what to watch together.  Oops, not supported by all apps.  Watch and listen together? More young folk. Add widgets to your home screen, ditto on the images.  See ‘Reduce background noise.’ That’s fun: Open Control Center, tap Mic Mode, then tap Voice Isolation to make sure your voice comes through loud and clear.  And so on. Go through the “Essentials’ and it’s more of the same – pictures are very cool, the people shown are very young.  Welcome to iPad! The instructions are required because the UI behavior varies across different apps and screens.

Digital literacy -- the required and moving target for older adults

Digital literacy – what is it? The term “Digital literacy” has been defined by the American Library Association task force as "the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills." Their definition of its importance began in the context of children and libraries. But its importance at every age, especially for older adults. Note that 25% of the 65+ population is not online. Yet for them, digital literacy is even more critical – when you consider how much useful information is available from or about our healthcare providers and related services. Consider the CDC definition of health literacy for individuals – "find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others." These capabilities are nearly entirely dependent on digital literacy – the ability to find and use information. Yet a new study just published noted that 91% of baby boomers felt overwhelmed by technology, with computers being the most daunting device.

Will robots help us in our homes – now and within 10 years?

Context matters: consider the likely status of people in 10 years. It makes you think. Asked this question recently and pondered. What will be the context at that time? A decade from now, the oldest baby boomers will be 86. Women will outlive men by a few years – living on average into their late 80s. They may be solo agers – no children, spouse or partner. They may struggle financially – including the 15% of women who rely primarily on Social Security income.  By 2030, 20% of the US population will be over the age of 65 -- and likely to be obese and living for at least 8 years with some level of disability. The demand for home care workers will grow by at least by 37%.  According to PHI analysis, the job pays so poorly today that 40% live in low-income households and 43% rely on public assistance.  Put all that together and at least the concept of helpful robots sounds pretty good.

Sensor technology can help families and short-staffed care providers

Sensor technology is increasingly useful in the care of older adults.  As part of the research into  the Future of Sensors and Older Adults, interviewees outlined ways sensors could be useful for mitigating fall risk. And their role tracking trips to the bathroom has been useful in detecting UTIs, identifying wanderers, alerting about sleep issues, noting whether a person has eaten. In senior living or home care, permission to track this type of information is likely (hopefully) given at the onboarding of a new care recipient or resident.  By mitigating some of these issues, older adults could remain home longer, supported by home care.  Or they could extend time in a senior living home, prior to moving to a higher level of care.

Did you miss insights and data from the five August blog posts?

The biggest older adult tech news from August was audible.  The US Food and Drug Administration approved the over-the-counter sale of hearing aids. Ironically that will not actually be official until October.  The implications are staggering – hopefully the implementation will match.  The big five hearing aid manufacturers will once again remake and remarket themselves, their brands and pricing to fit the new rule. Also in August, a new report on the status of US broadband access was released, highlighting major expansion underway.  Here are the five blog posts from August 2022:

New technologies may mitigate fall risk – and just in time

The stats on death from falls are startling – especially for the 65+.  Death rates are rising, projected to be 7 up to deaths per hour for the 65+ by 2030.  And that falls are the leading cause of injury death among the 65+.  Did you know that the majority of hip fractures are from falling, usually sideways?  Did you know that medical costs from falls was $50 billion in were projected to be $52 billion in 2020? And that the costs (estimated at $754 million in 2015) were mostly paid by Medicare and Medicaid (the latter likely in nursing homes.)  So many factors contribute to the risk of falling, including lower body weakness, balance issues, medications, and home hazards.

Interface designers opt for cool over useful

In recent years, TV Remote control devices became more usable – except for Apple’s.  Rant on. Starting with the older one (“Ridiculously symmetrical and highly unusable”) to the most recent Siri remote – where they give up on usable buttons and enable changing the channel by voice. You gotta love a company with a device so devoid of buttons – and so easily off the rails with an accidental touch.  No wonder it makes more sense to talk to it. Meanwhile, many usable TV remote control devices are in the market, including an Apple TV button remote from Function101 and you can also get a button universal remote control – and even one that is back-lit – so you can see the buttons – crazy!  Why are these devices called senior remotes?  Duh, because they have buttons, which seniors, maybe tired of all the accidentally swiping and zooming they do with their smartphones, just seem comforting and accessible.

Over the counter hearing aids – an absurdly long time in coming

Yesterday was a big day that should have happened several years ago. Finally. The US Food and Drug Administration approved the over-the-counter sale of hearing aids for those with mild-to-moderate hearing loss. Consider that this was first proposed in 2017! Consider the hearing aid ecosystem that has grown over many years to involve audiologists, a shrinking number of hearing aid makers – only five control 90% of the market! Consider the high price (upwards of $6000 per pair), limited insurance company assistance, and much individual isolation, misery, and family frustration. Consider the now-known and studied connection between untreated hearing loss and dementia.  Consider the multi-year delay between the onset of hearing loss for individuals, especially men, and actually doing anything about it. Consider the social isolation experienced by those with hearing loss.

CENSUS: Senior care growth means tech change will be mandatory

The Census knows the growth and potential explosion of care needs and older adults. Consider their newly published document explaining the industries to those who may still not see what’s happening. "Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly saw a 34.4% increase in revenue from 2013 to 2020.  Home Health Care Services experienced an even larger increase – 50.5% -- during the same period." These assertions are built on the Service Annual Survey (2021).   The U.S. Census Bureau projects that in 2050, the U.S. population ages 65 and over will be 83.9 million, nearly double what it was (43.1 million) in 2012.

Five Sensor Technology Offerings to Benefit Older Adults 2022

Some might say that sensor technology for older adults is nothing new.   What’s the big deal? Remote monitoring products and services built with sensors have been around for decades. Grandcare Systems was founded in 2004 followed by a sensor-based remote monitoring startup and consolidation wave in 2009-2010. This type of tech had obvious benefits, even then, but today, what was obvious then has become a crisis of care today. There are simply not enough workers to care for the aging boomers and beyond. That spells opportunity for motion and camera-based sensors that are being deployed for care of older adults. This will be discussed further in a report later this year, The Future of Sensors and Older Adults 2022. Among the many types and features of sensors, here are five offerings, all info from the companies:

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