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Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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Meet or hear Laurie in one of the following:

Monthly blog archive

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).

Five Health and Aging Tech Posts from May 2019

What does it mean when offerings and consumers aren’t aligned?  For older consumers and their families, the technology market and senior housing industry are two cases in point.  Consider the slower-growing 8(8% occupied) senior housing industry – where in ten years, 81% of couples will not be able to afford the $60,000 average cost of assisted living (a number that does not reflect higher cost memory care). Or mull over the technology industry, which is releasing new versions of every category faster than you can Google them, filling voids like adding mouse for the iPad.  Why did it not have a mouse in the first place?  Oh, yes, and it is an accessibility feature.  Still no headphone jack on the phone.  Or creating a folding phone (without much testing) with a screen that breaks within days of announcement. Did anyone ask for a phone that folds?  So in that vein, here are five blog posts, mostly rants, from May, 2019:

Linkage – A rare survey of technology ownership among the oldest

When there’s nothing else to buy. Funny about technology ownership among the oldest – generally there is no way to know whether they own any or if would they buy it. Neither Pew (in 2018) nor AARP (2019 technology ownership) broke out upper age ranges. So Link·age Connect is an outlier that asks ownership questions and documents age breakdowns of responders, half of whom were age 75+. This 2019 Technology Survey of Older Adults Age 55-100, conducted online, notes that 80% of respondents (45% of whom live in senior-oriented communities/housing) have smartphones. At this point, if the mobile phone breaks, what’s the store rep going to promote, and it doesn’t matter which store? While they carry flip/feature phones, an iPhone or an Android phone can be used just like a flip phone. More than 50% of respondents have smart TVs (yes, that’s nearly all you can buy these days).

Technology non-adoption of the oldest – it’s a bug, not a feature

Not adopting tech -- it's not okay. Lacking access to smartphones, Internet, in-home broadband/WiFi cuts oldest out of access to modern telehealth, communication and engagement, in-home sensors, outside-home GPS, fall detection, and device integration with smartphones. The issue of non-adoption, particularly as more health services move online, will become increasingly vexing for service providers of all types. Surveying of the oldest has fallen out of favor, though Link-ageConnect persists, thankfully -- see their 2019 report. But over the years much has been opined about the reasons – so here is some more opining. Rant on.

Technology, Bad Design and the Kitchen Pliers

You have a pliers in your kitchen. Rant on. If you were lucky enough to read Don Norman’s rant in Fast Company, you must agree with his view of design and its mismatch with the needs of the elderly. You would agree with Don that today’s designs fail all people, not just the elderly.  Because you too have a pliers or wrench in your kitchen to twist tops off bottles and jars. You puzzle at how best to position a knife to release the suction on jars. You have a slippery front door handle that a person with hand arthritis could never open. You have a not-so-universal TV remote with 45 buttons on it, the smallest of which is ‘Mute’.  If you have another box, it has a remote, and perhaps another for stereo equipment and an stylishly confusing one for Apple TV. And that’s just one room. You frequently want to print from a device to a network printer, which requires a network, which requires a router, which needs an upgrade. Let’s not go there.

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