For those interested in technology for aging in place, the 2008 AARP Healthy@Home Survey by Linda Barrett, Ph.D, of AARP Knowledge Management, is a remarkable resource and should be carefully studied - I have only begun to absorb some of the key points in it and will return to this again many times. Technology categories include use of a personal computer; home safety devices, including activity monitoring and fall sensors; and personal health and wellness devices, including electronic pill boxes and medication monitors; and telepharmacy. Eighty-seven percent indicated if they needed help caring for themselves they would prefer help provided in their current home -- and would be willing to give up some of their privacy to stay there. Okay -- that's a big item.
Methodology. About the data: Knowledge Networks did a survey in December, 2007 of 907 adults age 65+ (segmented into 65-74 and 75-84 age brackets) and 1023 caregivers between the ages of 45-75 years. Responders were part of a 'national household panel' maintained by Knowledge Networks, and included those without Internet access -- these individuals were provided with a 'web-device' to provide answers.
Here are a few highlights -- your feedback welcome!
- Seniors report having some independence issues. One-third reported limits on basic physical activities such as walking, climbing stairs, reaching, liftying or carrying. Two in five report low vision or hearing impairments. and 15% report problems learning, remembering, or concentrating.
- Seniors may not be aware of products, but would be interested to use. Older adults are both aware of and willing to use personal computers to see and hear people in different places, play games, and search for health information. Only 36% were aware of activity monitors (home monitoring), but 56% would be willing to use. Although they are familiar with Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS), they are generally unaware of electronic pill boxes (aka medication reminder or management systems.) And 75% indicated support for telemedicine, including having a physician diagnose or monitor a heart condition by receiving electronic information from the doctor's office or from their own home.
- Seniors expressed concern about cost and need. For all technology categories, most responders expressed concern about costs to install and maintain, most expressed willingness to to pay less than $50/month to use many of the product categories, and most also noted that despite willingness to use these devices, they may not be something that they need!
- Caregivers -- most live nearby! Caregivers also had a greater willingness to use than awareness of technologies to help them provide care. However, only 14% of caregiver responders live 1 or more hours from those they help. This raises a significant and unanswered question in this study -- what about long-distance caregiving? 7 million people in the United States are responsible for the care of someone more than 1 hour away, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Preliminary thoughts. From this study, I would conclude (in no particular order):
- National advocacy attention on technology is mediocre. The study makes it clear -- there is distinct lack of awareness of the availability of these categories of products. The AARP Home Fit Guide does not include any information about these technologies -- and in fact, at the AARP convention, I'd say most of the technologies in the Exhibit Hall were of the gizmo and gadget variety. I would suggest first to the AARP and next to the NIA that their sites offer a guide to technologies they suggest could aid both in nearby and long-distance caregiving.
- Awareness marketing is mediocre. Seniors are open to staying independent with the assist of some technologies -- but how will they learn about them? For every hour spent describing technologies to reporters (free) vendors should spend an hour-equivalent of their sales or marketing dollars advertising their technologies (especialy in the home safety category) to the caregivers, including those noted on this page like GilbertGuide, Caring.com, and airline magazines (to reach the long-distance caregiver).
- Cost is king -- and should not be directly born by seniors. The technology categories researched in Healthy@Home must be of a low cost to the seniors themselves, similar to the cost of cable television, internet access, and other subscription services. However, the cost-benefit to caregivers, doctors, home care agencies, independent living facilities, etc. may be so dramatic that cost-sharing or the entire cost burden will ultimately not be born directly by seniors. My initial take -- costs should be bundled as functionality in a facility or apartment, reimbursed through some sort of insurer that is trying to drive down the cost of care.