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August 2010

Aging in Place Technology Watch August Newsletter

August was a bonanza of buzz, buzz, buzz.  Usually August is a snoozer (and a slow news month) in the business world, what with vacations and organizational regrouping. But beginning with the August 3 Intel-GE Joint Venture announcement that fueled hope and speculation about accelerating intentions, more activity and media tracked right behind. During August, Great Call announced a new Jitterbug medication reminder service, Healthsense received a round of investment led by Radius Ventures, a $1.3 billion M-Health market sizing got Qualcomm and AT&T excited. Or maybe that that was 'mHealth' -- Best Buy (re)surfaced with health-related stuff in stores. Within the general what's-it-all-mean confusion, more press followed last month's NY Times series -- this time NPR offered up a series on aging and technology as well. Never one to shut up, I offered my own 'bah humbug' assessment of the assessment.

Enough already: NPR series adds remote monitoring sound but no light

Remote monitoring, a household product category?  Vendors in the remote monitoring world were no doubt thrilled when a few weeks ago we were treated to a wave of news stories -- the New York Times, CBS News, the Wall Street Journal and probably a number of other outlets that syndicated these. Clearly, free buzz is the best marketing any tech vendor can get -- and it is good to raise consumer awareness about a market category with fewer than 10,000 deployed units (a sum of the installed base as described to me by vendors). Generally these stories have been superficial -- hey, these are news stories, after all.  They briefly mentioned a randomly selected set of tech vendors, and perhaps whetted the appetite of consumers to consider their use. Never mind that there are numerous barriers and constraints that have, to date, limited adoption of remote home activity monitoring due to issues of pricing, reimbursement expectations, a well-established set of product capability and features, and a well-developed distribution model. 

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It's disappointing: tech to prevent wandering in independent or assisted living

Tracking people when they're gone - or noticing before they've left?  I spent the weekend researching various technology offerings that might prevent an 87-year-old able-bodied person with dementia from wandering beyond a specified area in independent or assisted living campuses. I've looked into it -- and I have to say, I am disappointed -- the hype exceeds at least my research reality.That GPS shoe hyped in the press? I just called Foot.com -- it will be out now in the Spring, 2011. Geo-fencing devices like SentryGPS, Alzguard -- require placing a device in the pocket that is easily discarded into the trash by a wandering senior. LoJack, EmFinders, The Alzheimer's ComfortZone, etc. all help find a person who is already lost -- and require involvement of local police departments.  And based on Internet searching of the 'geo-fencing' ideas, the websites and references indicate to me that they aren't that widely deployed.

CCRCs and technology centers -- an idea whose time has come

Silver Smart Technology Center -- a storefront in a CCRC.  Recently I had a chance to chat about with Sharon Whalen who works in the Passavant Retirement Community within Lutheran SeniorLife -- a 700-person CCRC in Zelienople, PA. Lutheran SeniorLife's CCRC is comprised of skilled nursing, memory care, personal care (their term for assisted living) and residential living villas and cottages (their term for independent living.) Sharon has just set up the Technology Center there to demonstrate those "assistive devices that residents, staff, family, and other members of the community can touch and get a feel if this is something they want" -- then they can decide whether to purchase on their own.

Counting centenarians -- and other conundrums

So baby boomers and seniors AREN'T buying the iPad right now.   You probably thought this post was about centenarians. which it is, but first, to clear up a bit of confusion, even though the iPad might be a zero-learning-curve tool for seniors, even though the iPad is winning over an unspecified number of elderly in Japan, let's be clear on the iPad buyer in the US. According to Nielsen Wire, only 15% of the iPad buyers are over the age of 56. So let's not get too excited about it right now as an aging-in-THIS place technology. I plan to stop writing about it for at least a few weeks.

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Aging in place will create a crisis of opportunity for CCRCs

CCRCs as destiny? Unlikely. Over the past few weeks, various statistics have caused me to roll my eyes (40% of doctors now consulting online -- huh?). But this one got my attention: the Wall Street Journal article about Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs). The article, which was about financial risk, cited an AAHSA estimate that "at least 745,000 older adults live in [1900 of] these communities", comprised of independent, assisted living, and nursing homes. Given the 39 million people over the age of 65, even if CCRCs double in capacity before 2020, they will reach a small percentage of that year's 55 million seniors.

Catching up – more new and notable tech offerings

It’s time for a quick August update of more new and notable tech offerings, from emerging vendors and new offerings from existing vendors – including beta testing.  Please let me know about others you know about and are not spotted via the Product Snapshots term on this site:

What dealers and integrators want from tech vendors

Advice to vendors of technology solutions.  From tech integrator Susan Estrada, Happy @Home:

Mark Weiser eloquently stated "The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it."This is where Age Tech needs to head - towards technology as a servant. But, we are definitely not there yet. This is a high-touch market that requires high-quality staff that does honest, careful identification of client needs then installs and supports reliable technologies. I need to be able to pay my staff living wages.

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GE, Intel joint venture company will open a door

GE-Intel Joint venture: transcends the past, picks up the pace.  In the wake of endless studies about the benefits of telehealth and in-home monitoring, finally Intel and GE decided to transcend the good works and research phases and form a new joint-venture company. The progression has been slow and steady: GE resells QuietCare, buys Living Independently Group, partners for distribution with DirectSupply, and in April invests $3 million in Ireland's Tril Centre's research for independent living -- already recipient of a sizable Intel investment. But the organizational shifting and fits-and-starts hampered QuietCare and in the meantime, interesting startups emerged who out-innovate and under-price. Meanwhile, over at Intel, years of effort and research, propelled by champion-in-chief Eric Dishman, culminated in only a few actual products for independent living -- Intel Health Guide and the Intel Reader. So a joint venture company offers a chance to capitalize on what both organizations have done and learned, but also to get moving. It couldn't happen soon enough or at a better time.