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July 2011

Aging in Place Technology Watch July 2011 Newsletter

Radio days -- do big companies care about seniors? I’ve been doing some radio interviews lately and the same question is always asked – originating from skepticism or disbelief, I’m not sure: “Are large companies really interested in technology for older adults?” That is another way of asking, of course, do large tech companies see the senior market as relevant? I always reply by naming Microsoft, Intel, GE, Qualcomm, Verizon and Philips – of course they are interested and willing to say so publicly, even when their initiatives are relatively small departments or investments by very large companies. But with baby boomers turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 per day for the next 20 years, could the silent giants of the tech sector to acknowledge and segment a bit of the website? Search the sites of HP, Google, Apple, Motorola, Dell, IBM, and Nintendo. (And yes, I know about ‘TeachParentsTech.org’, a project done by a few Google employees in their company-provided spare time.)

Are the Mi-Look phone's functions for our future -- or now?

The Japanese offer us a device-eye lens into US in 2030... or maybe today.  Heads up. See what $255 buys today in Japan for monitoring and communicating with an aging parent. The Mi-Look phone, recently announced by Kyocera, helps us look into our tech future, circa 2030, when a relatively niche US market will have grown to become a mainstream expectation. By that date, the age 65+ population will have reached the current Japanese percentage of approximately 22 percent. There will be nearly 52 million people 70 and older in the US, well over the current target population for the Mi-Look phone, which represents a 12 million current senior market size in Japan. So at that point, there should be quite a bit of demand for cleverness. Mainstream vendors will trip over themselves to offer high function/low price tech anyone could use without training and away from the home. But hey, what do you know, given the prospective market size of 12 million aged 70+ that Kyocera has identified in Japan -- wouldn't you know that there are already 27 million in the US today who are age 70+.

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Care Innovations Connect Makes Telehealth Social

Care Innovations -- tackling social isolation and wellness.  In some ways, yesterday’s launch of Connect from Intel-GE’s wholly owned Care Innovation joint venture should come as no surprise. When the companies combined last year, spun out of Intel’s Digital Health group and GE’s QuietCare business units, I was hopeful that they would transcend limitations of the previous parents. Especially given Intel’s investment history of researching social needs of seniors, Omar Ishrak’s comment last August really resonated: "We recognize that the conditions faced by home health patients are not necessarily clinical. It is part of our core mission [in the Joint Venture] to address social and support needs."  

Create the v2.0 measured life to help older adults

Evolving technology for an aging population – is evolving. Most who are in and around the tech and aging market would agree that this market is s-l-o-w-l-y emerging, offering up fairly complex tech, equally complex sales channel structures, and a pricing model that begs for (but doesn’t get) insurance reimbursement.  Research centers (like Stanford’s or the MIT AgeLab) and consortia like LeadingAge contemplate the tech futures of helpful robotics, smart homes, devices to shore up memory loss, and cars that could take the worry out of whether we can see, hear, or hold a wheel well enough to drive, never mind remember where we are going. In this world, so focused on health care and senior housing, we can find telehealth technology (Bosch), passive activity sensors (Healthsense) and sleep pattern tracking (WellAWARE), wander management devices, and the ever-so-glacial integration of these with health records.

Smartphones and health -- not quite ready for older adults and chronically ill

Smart phone app futurists take heart -- your blood pressure (is/may be/isn't) trending up (down). So this week's Pew Research Smartphone Ownership Survey reports that 24% of the 50-64 age group and 11% of the 65+ population have smartphones. That's good, they are incredibly useful -- navigation, Internet searches, e-mail/chatting, maps, reading a book, and on and on. But meanwhile, while they are still ramping up, it seems that the world is going a bit mobile healthy crazy, which will not help those most in need of these apps until adoption further grows, never mind trusting health data transmitted through a phone. The NY Times (April 25) expresses concern: Can a smart phone save your life? (Congrats to Independa for its senior monitoring mention.) Maybe, but there are problems. Watch a video of Eric Topol at the Aspen Ideas Festival: Yes/no, oops, let me restart this app!) And last, but definitely not least, IBM's new report about IBM scientists 'envisioning' a number of 'future' devices for better self-management of health and monitoring of seniors that will encompass diet support, caregiver notification, blood test and mobility.

Will aging in place become aging in some other place?

The times are changing – just ask boomers.  Just when is the survey glass half-full or half-empty? According to a June survey from The Hartford and MIT AgeLab, “50 percent of boomers want to stay in their current home as they age, but most have no plans in place.”  Hold on there, just a second, that means HALF of them want to move! How interesting and how antithetical to aging in place! But it was just a year ago that AARP surveyed the 45+ population and found that "almost three-quarters of Baby Boomers ages 45 and older – and effectively nine in ten people 65+ – said they want to stay in their current homes for as long as possible.” That was then and this is now.

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Who will develop the Kinect caregiving app?

Two disruptive technologies now in one company -- Skype and Kinect.  Looking back at the past year of technologies that could make a difference in the lives of older adults, I have often thought that Skype and Kinect, not smartphones and tablets, might be the two most significant. Skype because it brings long distance families together (so many examples!) and Kinect because it enables an interaction without the limitations of a mouse, keyboard, or controller. Now both of these are Microsoft's -- and once they've figured out how to commercialize them, we can expect Microsoft, as they have throughout their history, to treat them like platforms for a broad ecosystem of willing partners to extend into new applications.  And therefore, there will be apps that make a difference in the lives of older adults.


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