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December 2010

December 2010 Newsletter - 2010 wrap and 2011 trends to watch

In the sweeping generalization category, 2010 was a year of significant progress in tech for an aging population. It was a year of greater general market awareness about the role of tech and aging thanks to NPR, more sophisticated technology capabilities, and a boost in training and interest among those who serve an older population. Let's round up 2010, a year in which the concept and goals of aging in place took off, creating buzz and greater interest in the related technologies and services to help individuals, families, and professional caregivers. As a result of 2010, let's look into the 2011 crystal ball -- when the first of the intrepid baby boomers becomes a 65-year-old 'senior boomer' (arggghhh!), predict a few things and express some hope for a few others:

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Taking the older adult tech pulse in 2010

Ho, ho, ho-hum: more older adults use the Internet. Maybe 2011 will be the year I stop whining about older adults not being online. Pew just released its Generations Online 2010 report -- one of the few data sets that breaks the 65+ population down into subgroups.  Surveyed in the spring, Pew reports that now online are: 76% of aged 56-64, older baby boomers; 58% of the 65-73 age range (Silent Generation???? Silent about what?); and 30% of those age 74+ (GI Generation). These percentages are all up a bit from the slightly different categorizations from the 2009 report. And there's more:

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Home is where you are – but can you stay?

Seniors want to stay where they are – especially women.  In November, AARP reported results of its survey of older adults (sigh: now 45+) about where they want to live. Similar to other AARP studies, 88% of the 65+ population is in agreement that they want to stay in their current residence for as long as possible, pushed up to 89% for women overall, and up further to 90% for the 50+ population with incomes between $25K and $50K per year.  Maybe we interpret that as happy with one's current comfort level or maybe that represents responders' inability to afford a move that would provide the same degree of comfort or community.


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Senior housing should lead with tech-enabled service to drive costs down

Assisted living cost structures are outrageous. Perhaps you saw it -- the New Old Age article about one family's encounter with ballooning costs in Assisted Living (year-over-year cost growth of 5.2% nationwide), now an 18% (additional $12,000) hike proposed for this 72-year-old gentleman because he 'needed the next level of care.' Then there's the nursing home story I heard recently of a woman who has been 'private pay' in a nursing home to the tune of $100,000/year for years -- because she had the ability to pay. She spends her days reading books in the hallway. Or another -- 12-hour/day non-facility companion aides to 'watch' and prevent wandering on top of $4600/month 'assisted living' charges, bringing the total expenditure to $11,000/month.  Another example: a locked memory care unit in a wealthy town, where a studio apartment starts at $7400/month. All of them have 'prices' of care completely out of proportion to the labor and actual delivery of the care itself. From the Times article: "The institutions often urge families to approach assisted living a bit more realistically." Yes, realism would be good -- regular meetings and clarity on future costs would also be good. "It’s important for people to remember that their loved one is moving into assisted living because they need services," said David Kyllo, executive director of the National Center for Assisted Living. "They’re not moving in because of a change in address. It’s needs-driven."  I find that to be a rather snippy comment on the circumstance of a family understandably appalled by price hikes.

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The tech gifts that keep on giving: video, music, books and games

Grandma at the virtual Thanksgiving table this year.  I heard two examples this week of Skype-ing an aging relative into last week's family meal; you probably know more examples. Pushy tech-sharp adult children make sure that Grandma is sitting in front of a camera for her meal (nursing home, assisted living or in her home) and able to chat during dinner, seeing the grandchildren, the dog, without having to make an exhausting and destabilizing (especially these days) trip to visit the long-distance family.  In another call, I was told that everyone over the age of 75 who is going to go online is already there. Given the distance-collapsing nature of video, I just don't believe it -- every adult child who has children is going to find a way to get a video phone, a camera-enabled iPad, or a camera-enabled laptop into the home of an aging relative.

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