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Ten Technologies for Aging and Health from CES 2024

The press releases signal a busy time in Las Vegas.  Viewed from afar, drowning in press releases, it is clearly a nearly fully revived CES 2024. With 130,000 attendees it’s down a bit from 2020’s peak of 175,000. From electric motorcycles and low-profile automobile antennas, the unfolding TV to robotic pool cleaners and lawn mowers and construction, it sounds like it was a noisy place. Some folks think this is a consumer show, but that was the long-ago Consumer Electronics Show. So many entrants in the AgeTech, accessibility and health categories seek visibility and possible global reach.

Five policy changes from 2023 that will drive more tech for older adults

The 2024 Market Overview of Technology for Aging will be published during CES 2024.  As part of that update, it is worth considering changes that occurred in the past year that matter to older adults and families. Caregiving and other demands of an aging population gained significant government attention and new initiatives during 2023. While some of the actions below will require further funding action from Congress, all of these represent forward momentum for long-needed changes. It is likely that technology enablement and access will be components of each of the initiatives as they evolve.  Categories include:

AARP 2024 Tech Survey: Change Continues to Outpace Older Adults

The 2024 survey is out – some might say it is positive about tech adoption.  Older adults (age 50+) own nearly every tech owned by those age 18-49. They have smartphones, tablets, Smart TVs, wearables – with the same disinterest in smart home technologies. The cynical among us might say that some tech change (like the 3G to 5G cutover) forced smartphone adoption.  And so the growth in smartphone ownership is led by older adults And it’s pretty tough to buy a ‘dumb TV’ these days even if you wanted one, though it’s feasible.  

Five technologies for older adults -- 2023 wrap-up (2 of 2)

The pace of innovation in tech for older adults accelerated in 2023.  New product announcements, incubators/accelerators, government grants (see NIA) seem to be multiplying. Companies emerged or announced updates addressing dementia care. The concept of an AI Caregiver to augment limited staffing took on new significance as the crisis in care work worsened throughout the year. Senior living organizations showed signs of accelerating tech adoption, particularly in areas of AI for remote monitoring and safety. The time is right for engaging with an AI-powered avatar for health advice, including assisting with fall prevention. Here are five more from 2023, all text from the company websites. More to come after CES 2024 begins:

Five new technologies for older adults -- 2023 wrap-up (1 of 2)

AgeTech is a niche market no more.  As we approach 2024 and the plethora of tech introductions from CES 2024, let's reflect. This past year underscored the demographic changes that have brought an aging population -- turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 per day -- into the sight lines of investors, startups and health providers. The very recent monumental investment that swept AI and media visibility underscored how AI could help older adults. And the shortage of labor in the care industries put a spotlight on the gaps in care that AI tech can help close.  No doubt 2024 will reveal more investment and innovation in tech for older adults.  All material is drawn from the websites of the companies.

The care future for older adults needs housing and tech support

The Harvard study describes a bleak care future. And the NORC study underscores the housing problem for the Forgotten Middle. Life expectancy for the 65+ is another 20 years on average.  But only 14% of Americans can afford long-term care in the home. And if they could afford it, only 4% of their homes are aging-ready. Nor are they telehealth-ready – where 36% of Americans do not have high-speed internet in the home. For low-income individuals, home and community based services may have a 3-year wait to obtain them. Further, 42% of women aged 75+ live alone

Consider ever-changing tech hurdles for older adults

The more technology changes, it’s a step back for some.  You probably think the inevitability of tech change is mostly positive. And in a macro sense, maybe it is. But for some older adults, it’s one negative experience after another. The closing of thousands of bank branches in favor of online banking, the elimination of paper social security statements, the near-elimination of paper savings bonds for the grandchildren, and the ubiquitous introduction of the QR code in restaurants – saving labor.

Five conclusions from AI and the Future of Care Work

The report is published, the feedback positive, observations strike a chord.  Necessity will drive AI usage in care work across all five care types (healthcare, home health care, home care, senior living, and Skilled Nursing Facilities). Issues of worker shortage, staff burnout, or migration of care work into the home will result in broader deployment of AI technology (whether explicitly or inside other software tools). And regulatory initiatives will help overcome trust issues for consumers. Over the next few years, care organizations will make more disciplined use of their own data that an AI technology such as a chatbot can access or present to a caregiver. The changes that are most likely within the next five years? See today-future comparison chart below and check out the report here.   

Scam innovation -- moving faster than the speed of regulation

What a week – chaos at OpenAI plus the rise of scam innovation. This weekend exposed a conflict at OpenAI, the November 22, 2022 bringer of ChatGPT, between the board that wants to develop AI for good and perhaps another view, AI for commercial profit.  Sam Altman the founder is fired, begs to come back and instead is offered a job and a team at Microsoft (the other big funder of OpenAI.) He agrees to go to Microsoft and 700 of OpenAI’s 750 employees threaten to quit.  Guess they weren’t big fans of AI for Good.  Microsoft, which committed as much as $10 billion over time for OpenAI, might think AI for Profit might be a better strategy.  Watch for the next installment of this very public soap opera.

Internet access changed everything, including for older adults

What changed in technology adoption of older adults? Ranting about technology adoption 15 years ago, it obviously was a different world.  There were dedicated email devices (Presto, Celery, Mailbug) – clearly the standard personal computer was not too friendly. The Jitterbug phone addressed the problem that cell phones weren’t too friendly, and the concept of ubiquitous access to the Internet through easy-to-use browsers was a glint in the innovator eye.  People still shopped in stores – the Mall of America was thriving compared to strip malls, bookstore sales were at their peak – not yet traumatized by Amazon. Facebook introduced Live Feed, wrecking Myspace.  Banks still had branches, the drop of 1700+ branches hadn’t happened yet, no doubt because the 2008 market crash hadn’t fully kicked in.

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