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Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

Monthly blog archive

Five New Technologies for Aging in Place

Let’s catch up with the press releases from the past six weeks. October is typically one of the busiest times of the year for technology announcements. And it has been especially difficult lately to track them amid the sturm und drang of these past weeks. And that's just the storm and stress of reading -- never mind attending trade shows! Anyway, from the recent incoming missives, these five bring this site up to date. All information, as indicated by the quotation marks, is, minus a drop or two of hyperbole, from the vendor websites and releases:

The social networking implications of wills, grandparenting, and elevators

Did you think you would need a Facebook executor in your will?  Bet not. There is more than enough challenge dealing with Facebook and its side effects while we are still kicking. But sure enough, from the Wall Street Journal: "The U.S. General Services Administration recommends people set up a ‘social-media will,’ review the privacy policies and terms and conditions of each website on which they have a presence and stipulate in their traditional will that the 'online executor' get a copy of the death certificate." Some are even valuing the material they have posted online. McAfee’s survey last year found that consumers value their digital assets, on average, at nearly $37,000, although US consumers valued content at $55,000: "That includes photos, projects, hobbies, personal records, career information, entertainment and email." This baffles me. It would seem that if you trust someone to be the executor of your will in which your bank accounts, home, and valuables are at stake, your online material would roll into that.

When will families demand technology in senior care?

Wireless networks – they matter in home care and assisted living.  Adult children are letting home care and assisted living organizations off the technology hook, whether it is support for high speed Internet access, wireless networks, training staff on how to support social networking with long-distance family, or whatever. How do I know this?  Let me count the ways.  My own surveys – Future of Home Care Technology 2012, publicly available material surveying CFOs about tech investments (by Leading Age), conversations at MassALFA and finally with tech companies trying to sell technology to the senior housing industry. 

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Healthcare consumerism and the remote monitoring reality check

Deloitte has made an executive decision – ‘senior’ begins at 67.   Taking the first step onto a slippery slope, Deloitte, advisor to CIOs and other C-worthy executives, tries to get ahead of the age wave. To distinguish seniors from boomers (aging away as they are), their most recent report on healthcare consumerism has decided to pick its own cutoff for a generational split – despite Medicare (65), full Social Security eligibility (varies by birthday), and various senior discounters from AARP (55+) to AAA (65+). So we have a tantalizing question to ponder – does that mean that in 2013, senior-ness for Deloitte  begins at 68?  What about in five years – will it be age 72?  We are in a cycle of growing longevity that is surely underestimated by everyone, including consumers, but most significantly, then, will be Deloitte and the C-folk.   But they used a web-based questionnaire and didn’t provide age segment breakdowns of the 67+. As with most surveys, therefore, responders aged 67+ who indicated they would use remote monitoring to send information to their doctor (a hypothetical capability for sure), are NOT a representative sample of the older and still-viable decades (age 77+).

Five smart phone apps for caregivers

Smartphone apps are cheap. You really have to marvel at what has happened to the software world in the past decade. In the bad old days, giant enterprise software vendors roamed the earth, and multi-day training sessions could (and did) make a grown person cry. Expensive licensed software, baffling user interfaces with obscurely named data elements that only the engineers could understand. Although the consolidated 'horsemen of the software apocalypse' still run large enterprises, today, end user expectations have, uh, diminished in scale. Smart phones may cost a few thousand per year in data plans, plus the phone, but software has miniaturized into inexpensive, colorful and graphic versions that by definition, must be intuitive to use, personal and functional – at less than $10/month for a service and only a few dollars for the apps.  Why no 'free' apps that are everywhere -- they're not really free. The premium version will have a price: we’re part of a hospital system that wants to help you, we’re funded by advertising. And as with phone pricing,  if you're paying for insurance or other care, 'free' is a charming euphemism.  Descriptions are from the vendor sites.

The Law of Unintended Facebook Consequences

Facebook’s philosophy could one day harm even the cautious. You might have skipped Saturday’s Wall Street Journal. Or if you read the paper, you might have passed up an article entitled When Deepest of Secrets Get Outed on Facebook. It was purportedly about young people who joined a gay chorus that had an open Facebook group – and as a result, their parents learned they were gay. But this article reflects a much larger issue -- Facebook's default strategy is sharing information -- with companies and through groups that users believe to be private – and the CEO believes that this default strategy is acceptable and appropriate. No need to restate it when Mark Zuckerberg says it so well. In an interview about the rise of Facebook called The Facebook Effect he observes: "The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly." But did we understand this and really, do we all get the picture?

Six steps before launching a tech product for boomers or seniors

Don’t quit your day job just yet – do the homework first.   Starting a new company? I hear fairly regularly from those who have this intent.  Maybe they have a prototype they have created. When I don’t hear first, sometimes I catch who they are through the modern-day miracle of Google Alerts. So maybe we chat, maybe I take a look at a website, learn how they are going about getting their funding, and I ask if they know about products that may be similar to what they are doing.  Or have they browsed online catalogs, or spoken to non-profits (if that is one of the target audiences).  Have they studied market sizings and surveys from Nielsen to Pew to MetLife? And so on.  So here’s a recap of advice for the pre-early stage – more another day:

Analyst firms focus on IT, not consumer health technology

The investment industry is covering their eyes about trends in money, health and aging. Visible awareness of the current swelling ranks of an aging (and not so healthy) population has yet to seriously penetrate the portfolios of the top venture capitalists, despite their rip-roaring second quarter. Yet the health industry employs 1 in 8 Americans. Costs are skyrocketing. No other industry has ever lowered the cost curve without technology. Instead, mobile health has a bit of VC attention -- those $3 mobile self-absorption apps for the naval-gazing young, marginally employed, and phone-obsessed. Ah, but did you know that the 18-29 year olds have less spending power than their parents? Did you know that families are spending all of their money on their smart phones instead of on consumer goods (the engine of the US economy?)

The fine line between tech-enabled process and fraud

Smart phone plans: a super-sized way for carriers to make a buck.  McDonald’s now has to tell you the calories in a Big Mac, but Verizon and AT&T don’t need to warn you that watching videos on your phone will suck up the monthly minutes on your data plan faster than a vacuum cleaner picks up dirt. So while only 11 percent of the 65+ have smart phones, they are part of the 50% of households that have one or some.  Instead of being told upload-download speeds, storage capacity on the phone, and how to video conference the whole family in, how about giving you a WARNING sheet that shows price equivalents (like calories) of the various activities you think you want -- and how these activities fit into or drive up charges beyond your data plan? How about handing you a sheet that outlines all hidden costs? If that doesn’t make you blink, then ask what percentage of customers exceed these plans and what the average monthly bill is for customers with the type of phone you're considering?  And if that data doesn’t make you blink, you obviously can afford to both buy dinner and own the phone.

Six trends that signal change in all things aging and health

Stick versus carrot: re-admission penalties emerge October 1st.  This may be much ado about nothing – but October is the month that hospitals begin being 'penalized' for readmitting the same patients within 30 days of discharge. What’s that mean in dollars and cents?  Well, by forcing hospitals to focus on what are euphemistically called 'transitions' -- cuts of anywhere from 0.42 percent to 1 percent in revenue loom. Or look at the flip side: CMS gets back $280 million from 2200 hospitals immediately.  And who are those pesky people who have been re-admitted? Surprise, they are disproportionately comprised of seniors, initially with diseases like pneumonia, heart attack and heart failure, with more diagnoses added each year.

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