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Aging in Place Technology Watch April 2011 Newsletter

When disruptive tech disrupts -- hindsight is 20-20.  Even famous executives like Michael Dell can be surprised by market change -- his comment about the rise of the tablet: "I didn't completely see that coming" made me wonder a bit about his marketing staff. But it was his remark about Android that made me pause: "if you look at 18 months ago, Android phones were like, "What is that?" And now there are more Android phones than iPhones." Consider this description from another WSJ article, which notes that "the handset logs calling data, messaging activity, search requests and online activities. Many smartphones also come equipped with sensors to record movements, sense its proximity to other people with phones, detect light levels, and take pictures or video. It usually also has a compass, a gyroscope and an accelerometer to sense rotation and direction." And Android phones support voice-activated search, e-mail response, and navigation. It would not be unreasonable to expect all smart phones to do all of these things, oh, maybe by next Thursday. And the following version may be quite usable. 

How to interpret older adult usage of smart phones -- first caution, then replacing PERS. With all due respect to the Coughlin blog post theorizing why aging baby boomers are slow to buy smart phones, I read the Nielsen chart as indicative of cautious baby boomer entry into a market of version 1 products, waiting to see what their children and peers are buying. Behind them, still more caution among seniors age 65+. But we can see where this is heading. And it makes me wonder about a number of aspects of the PERS market, including why Qualcomm-etc. would bother with the Lifecomm initiative for a new-age PERS device, still not launched? Philips has done nicely with Lifeline with Auto Alert (most likely taking sales away from their traditional PERS device), but industry insiders that I talk to don't see the PERS market growing -- and in fact, those resources may best be deployed in other health-oriented chronic disease monitoring, likely to be reimbursed in the future to avoid re-hospitalization post discharge.  For those who like to look ahead, the smartphone impact on a PERS market will be far more likely if call center players partner with carriers and smart phone makers to put apps in place that not only help us find a restaurant but help us get around and be found.

Games aren't just games anymore. The Times also ran an interesting article on the popular (understatement) game, World of Warcraft social networking tool -- how players meet through their avatars, then meet and marry. Then there's a note I received from Laura Traynor of the Center for Aging in Place in Westchester about a presentation that will be given at ASA's Aging in America by the 84-year-old board president Lois Steinberg: "It's about a pilot program that used a virtual online game (World of Warcraft) to help volunteers learn how to work more effectively in teams to achieve goals of their aging in place membership programs.  Here's the video that Lois and her colleague Peter Luzmore will be presenting. Microsoft's Kinect can be translated into a cardio rehab tool, smart phones can be used as safety devices for out-and-about autistic children, and World of Warcraft can be used for team building among aging services volunteers. Warning: Folks who see one product and one use, who believe that long-standing markets are forever, and who are wishing and hoping that things will stay as they are -- sleepers awake.

And from prior blog posts:

More Technologies that Can Assist Caregivers. Walking the aisles of Alzheimer's Association of the Northwest, looking at the exhibit floor, one could get the impression that the key for family members and professionals is finding a good home care agency or assisted living placement. Which reminds me, that despite the best of intentions in the aging services worlds, I rarely see evidence that it is at the top of the priority lists of these organizations to ensure that those they serve know what technologies might be of some benefit to them. (The exception is LeadingAge (formerly AAHSA) which has sponsored CAST -- check out the link that LeadingAge CAST has just released an analysis of state payments for Aging Services Technologies (AST).... 

University Research Programs -- Help Create Commercialization Reality.  Cathedral builders are still wanted. Nearly three years ago, in my naive tiptoeing into the tech market for aging in place, I wrote a dismayed blog post about how so many universities have age-related research programs that design and then evaluate efficacy of technology and older adults -- and then disappear when the students move on. Despite a then-slumping economy since October 2008 when that was written, there are still plenty of research programs that live on (see MIT AgeLab), studies have been done to prove efficacy and effectiveness of technologies to help people age in their own homes. So here's another research effort, this time through the University of Missouri and an associated independent living complex called Tiger Place...

Tech-enabled Homecare is Betwixt and Between. Today we are in a no-man's land of legislative initiatives to keep (or move) seniors at home and out of a shrinking number of nursing homes -- between the CLASS Act, CMS program experiments, PACE program here and Medicaid payment (see Leading Age/CAST report about which states reimburse PERS et al.) -- the only really clarity is that government agencies believe that the costs of care are lower at home.  On the other hand, we are at an amazingly under-deployed stage of the use of technology in delivering home care services (if you have any statistics that prove otherwise, please come forth!) So on the one hand, we chip away at the viability of nursing homes (1000 have closed within the past 10 years), we don't chip away at the cost of assisted living, however, which is financially out of reach when there is no pricey home to sell. Yet 24x7 home care is priced by MetLife at a US-wide average of $183K/year (in comparison to a US-wide average of $40K/year for Assisted Living).

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