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Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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For older adults, consider that transitions are going to take longer

The baby boomer generation’s later years will be unprecedented.   Each time the population aged 65+ is counted, it’s a bigger number. That onslaught, now at 52 million, bears repeating.  The boomers, turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 a day, are pushing and prodding assumptions, deadlines, and pundit predictions. As they do so, they will force industries to change offerings – and drive considerable change in technology that underpins their lives. Consider signals from today's older adults that will only become more pronounced as the boomers move past today's upper age of 73. Today's emerging trends are showing that:

Wearables for health and wellbeing

How do wearables contribute to health and wellbeing of older adults? Did something happen recently propelling sales up 51% that pushed consumers out the door to buy a wearable, like a fitness band or a smartwatch? Was it the coolness of the Apple Watch? Was it fear of ailments that worsen with lack of exercise?Or to put the question another way, what is it that these devices do that can help maintain or improve health, noting that 32% of baby boomers today get no exercise whatsoever, according to the CDC. However more than 50% are striving for 30 minutes per day and want feedback about how they're doing. Today’s wearables have functions that are relevant because they:

Eight Intriguing Offerings from the 2019 Voice Summit

The Voice Summit, like Voice First itself, is still in its early years.  The second annual event was last week – and you would think incorrectly that at least one writer from a national news media outlet would have written about it by now, especially with 5000 attendees, sponsorships from Amazon and Google, 150 exhibitors, and numerous awards.  One of those which went to UnaliWear for Best IoT Device, a firm we have long tracked in the aging tech market, but given the rise of smart watches, the market transcends that segment. Another (healthcare award went to Suki, a voice notes offering for doctors that "has demonstrated up to 70% reduction in time spent entering notes." 

Voice, Health, and Well-being – Launching a New Report for 2020

It’s a given -- Voice First will be even more pervasive in 2020. The rapid growth of the market for voice-enabled technologies has been a phenomenon within the past two years that can understand spoken requests and commands, answer questions, and even offer scheduled alerts.  Industry firms like Gartner expect that the combination of natural language processing, AI, and speech recognition are driving significant growth in adoption of voice technology across multiple dimensions. Speech recognition, for example, will penetrate 80% of mobile devices by 2020.   Some describe this trend of developing software for voice-enabled device user interfaces as Voice First.

Design for all – what we wanted and what we got

Here’s a test. Can you look at a list, for example, of technologies that vendor websites claim are aimed at older adults and their caregivers -- and substitute younger beneficiaries or health care recipients?  Do designers who develop applications, devices, and websites that appear to target older adults do that exercise of substitution as they proceed from concept to pilot to delivered offering? Was that what was meant in the concept ‘design for all’ in this prescient report ‘Connected Living for Social Aging’ sponsored by AARP in 2011?  Per the report’s definition of ‘Design for all’: User experiences that appeal to all age groups, persisting across versions and devices 

Six new technologies for older adults – July 2019

More smarts are moving into tech for older adults. AI capabilities combined with a Voice First interface is increasingly expected – and so they are part of new offerings to help older adults, bothliving at home or in senior living communities. Will older adults be comfortable with them?  Will they be used effectively to help them remain as safe, independent and/or well as possible? These remain to be validated, but between the smarter homes and the smart devices, we are heading into another wave of innovation.  Here are six technologies (alphabetical order) entering the space – information is drawn from firm websites:

Older adults and screen time – what’s it mean?

Pew’s latest examined screen time for older adults.  The highlight of this document published in June – from age 60 to 80 and beyond, older adults spend more time on their screens (watching TV or videos) than on anything else other than sleep. And that includes time spent working. And one other interesting tidbit – 40% of those in their 60s are still working, which of course includes the un-retired. But 14% of people in their 70s are still working, according to Pew, along with 4% of people in their 80s. The report also notes that 73% of the 65+ are Internet users, and 53% are smartphone users.  As with the younger population, reading and socializing time has ticked down.

The Venn Diagram of Health, Aging, and Caregiving

You see it in the media and hear about it with investors.  Digital Health is in its bubble of $8.1 billion in 2018,  which amounted to 8.6 % of VC investments, despite limited exit strategies – but investors love it.    Startups focused on the aging/technology space, however, receive only 0.7% of venture capital investment, including the big money ($115 million to date) that has gone to just one company.  (And that company is quietly pivoting to become a home care consolidator/platform company).  Meanwhile, over at the $30 billion (2018) home care market, a worsening shortage of workers in the midst of demand growth, is creating a recruiting near-panic among agencies, senior living firms and families, and produced.

Tech adoption grows for older adults -- why?

In 2019, Tech adoption changes -- some.  It’s known as the Amazon effect. As brick-and-mortar based businesses dwindle in favor of online, access to smartphone and broadband are becoming the enablers of information flow to older adults.  Pew Research helps us understand who, what, and possibly why people buy and own technology. Non-users, particularly broadband, are thus on one side of the so-called digital divide.  The latest Mobile Technology and Home Broadband 2019 report reveals a change in the role of smartphones, particularly as a sole device for connecting to the Internet – 37% of responders to this year’s survey go online primarily using a smartphone, with 58% of 18-29-year-olds saying they mostly go online that way, though that number dropped to 15% for the 65+.   

Ten Years – Technology for Older Adults – 2009-2019

Look back to remind us where we are.  Ten years ago, the tech product choices designed for older adults were few and rudimentary. The intent was simplification of the basics for the tech-reluctant – sending email, looking at information online.  As an analyst migrating from the IT industry, it was startling to see the limited capabilities of the offerings like Presto the Printing Mailbox (used, eBay), Celery (printing mailbox – gone), Mailbug (device to send-receive email – still on Amazon), and Big Screen Live (browser for seniors - gone).  According to an AARP Healthy@Home report from 2008, the only home tech device that had any level of awareness (91% of responders) was Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS).

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