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Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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Six new technologies for health and aging in place -- June 2017

Recent announcements, interesting offerings are worth a look. AARP recently completed the judging process for its Innovation Champion Awards; and upcoming, the Boomer Venture Summit in Berkeley in July, will select business plan startup winners – see last year’s winner.  Here are six technology-enabled offerings (some in market, some in process of getting to market) that can be helpful to older adults and those who care for them and about them (listed in alphabetical order): 

Say it ain’t so -- will boomers age into a technology divide?

Boomers and technology – it’s a given.  Yesterday yet another baby boomer reporter asserted what is believed by many to be the obvious.  Baby boomers will not be tech-phobic (presumably like their parents) – but will be willing and able to use the newest technology in their later years.  What’s the proof?  They use it now – for example, 83% are using the Internet, look at Facebook pages for health information, form social connections, research online, etc.  And baby boomers, many of whom are now ‘seniors’, expect technology to help them remain independent as they age. This is such a significant possibility that tech designers are actually encouraged to consider them when designing a new product.

Why older people are less connected -- location and money matter

Dial-up lives on -- and not necessarily out of preference. You may have read this last week: Rural America is stranded in the dial-up age.  That was disturbing on multiple levels, starting with the obvious.  Even people who could afford better access can’t get it – they drive to a gas station parking lot to obtain Internet speeds fast enough to do online business. Study the map in the article and ponder the status of elderly who live in these low-bandwidth locations. The article notes 23 million people (39% living in rural areas) who lack access to any type of broadband. Older adults make up a larger percentage of rural Americans, 16% than in the US as a whole and “people aged 75+ are more likely to have chronic diseases and disabilities."

Home technology ecosystem chaos – there’s no app for that

Technology gadgets – ecosystem incompatibility.  Look around a very digital home filled with parallel and incompatible ecosystems – and sigh.  So many parts, so little integration – it seems vendors compete to death to NOT work together. Consider iMessage – like insider trading, it works well for iPhone execs and phone owners. Consider Bluetooth – it must be turned on so a device can pair with that cool in-room speaker, but turned off to save energy.  Really. A smartphone isn't witty enough to know that it is in the room with a Bluetooth-compatible speaker or fitness band and perhaps should be enabled? And not smart enough to turn bluetooth off when the phone departs the room? But the device is now smart enough to suggest a WiFi network to pick -- in fact every time your car passes a location that has WiFi enabled.

The content of our lives – who cares enough to save it?

Imagine all the non-digital photos and memorabilia. Forget Airbnb and driving for Uber. Boomers with creativity, organizational skill and some technology can follow multiple small business paths that have large emotional implications for the customer. Consider the large and small albums of photos, cassette tapes, home movies – not just from the boomers aged 51-71, but from their parents, and even some from their parents’ parents. Will anyone want it? Cynics contend that not only will the old content be lost due to disinterest, but that current content (selfies, group photos, Facebook and Instagram shots of that great dinner) will also be lost, some say, to collective disinterest – the photo only mattering in the moment.

Where is the Internet Service plan to train on new technology?

Surveyed about technology, but untrained in its use.  Does this describe someone you know?  According to Pew’s latest report, Tech Adoption Climbs Among Older Adults, but the glass is less than half full when 48% of seniors say that this statement describes them very well: "When I get a new electronic device, I usually need someone else to set it up or show me how to use it."  In fact, the numbers reveal multi-age tech insecurities and the need for training. Consider if you include those who answered that the statement described them Somewhat Well:  62% of those 50-64 and 73% of those 65+ need help in dealing with a new device.  

Older adults and technology – the latest news they cannot use

What problem is being solved? Consider the solution to slightly thorny and REALLY thorny problems. Do you wonder about the thought process that produces them – isolated in a conference room bubble, what are the thinkers considering before these announcements?   Must a misfire (or multiple misfires) precede the right solution? And shouldn't the solutions be of a scale (large or small) that fits or sounds like it fits the problem?

Five new technologies for older adults – May, 2017

In home and out and about – new and not quite here offerings.  The top of the list alphabetically is the not-yet-here and pricey Amazon Echo Show.  Is this a ground-breaking innovation? Or is it an always-watching irritant set to ‘drop-in mode’ which automatically will accept a video call after 10 seconds? On the positive side -- start chatting with an aging parent who lacks or hates PC/Macs, tablets, or smartphones.  Consider the potentially negative response: an intrusive person (your loving relative) sneaks up on your screen, ready to converse when you least expect it. How creepy-Skype-y is it?  Here are the five:

Tech use and seniors, ridiculed in media, otherwise ignored

Tech adoption of the 65+ is now buried in a Pew appendix. If age were an ethnic or racial minority, outrage at technology ageism would be vocal and constant.  The 65+ are a mere 46+ million Americans – a group larger than the sum of all of the teenage population non-shoppers.  So their tech adeptness, rather than being viewed as an opportunity, is naturally ignored in surveys.  For example, scroll down and further down on this Pew fact sheet to note level of ‘Digital Readiness’ among demographic groups.  Note that 6% of the 65+ demographic is 'digitally ready' compared to 17% of all age groups. Note that 33% is characterized as 'unprepared.'  And the same percentage applies to those aged 50-64!

Your Money or Your Life: AARP Fintech and Amazon Show

So many head-spinning numbers to describe the 50+ Consumer.  In making the case for the 'Fintech' innovation market opportunity, AARP’s new Financial Innovation Frontiers report (aimed at the Fintech industry) freely fires off a wide range of market segment numbers.  Is the report about the population aged 50-100?  There are 111 million Americans aged 50 and older, 35% of the US population, described as a 'generation.'  That includes three segments of baby boomers as well as their parents. The report is not about the growing life expectancy of those who live to age 65 with their predicted longevity  (88.8 for women, 86.6 for men). Instead, the report focuses on the 50+ Consumer (their term) aged 50-60 who is a decade away or less from ‘retirement’, an increasingly obsolete term. They are confronted with a range of financial challenges -- the report suggests fintech tools that could help them deal with retirement savings shortfalls resulting from career setbacks ($4.3 trillion savings gap), unplanned withdrawals ($4.1 trillion) and student debt ($1.3 trillion).

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