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Aging in Place Technology Watch August 2011 Newsletter
Non-Labor day – or is it? We need some new ideas for how to continue to earn money past the age of 50 – the old ways aren’t working. The American economy added a net number of zero jobs in August. That is impressive as a net number, given that home care and home health care are the fastest growing job segments today. Fear about the future is driving folks to continue to work past their ‘expected’ retirement age. And people are living longer – a prospect that certainly makes ‘planning’ for the future a daunting experience in a good economy. People are putting their money under the mattress, that is, if they still have some. Yet every day I get a press release from an entrepreneur, a startup company that wants me to know that they are launching and targeting boomers and seniors. Are these startups in the net number of ‘zero jobs’ in August? Are the traditional ways of counting workers, work, and non-farm payroll reflective of the continued ingenuity and idea creation that seems (from my vantage point) to be pervasive, targeting services and capabilities for older adults? Also, please note that the WSJ article about those who have lost jobs -- and note (which the WSJ did not notice) the jobs that several have found in the senior-related areas.
You and I should (and I bet we will) LinkIn. Last month I mentioned the 24 LinkedIn groups that I read in digests every day or few days. Here are groups that you should know about – increasingly these groups are open (i.e. no manager approval required, including Technology for Aging in Place). For all of the blah-blah-blah about the wonders of Facebook, Twitter, and now Google+, all three of those need to be twisted into pretzel knots to deliver the focused commentary with links, not to mention job postings, offered by LinkedIn. Here are a few: Mature Markets, National Association of Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM), Wireless Health Group, Connected Health Community, National Senior Living Providers, The Elder Care Network, and Homecare Sales and Marketing and many others. Here’s hoping that if you are in any of these spaces, this is not news to you. If you are in adjacent spaces, please expand your world – it could expand your line of sight, if not your business.
Seniors and everybody else learn better from mistakes. A very small study of 45 adults (average aged 70) was published recently that demonstrated a greater ability to learn through trial and error in comparison to passively being shown information. Whether this was the last word on this topic or not, it would be interesting to contemplate the mechanics of training older adults on new technology. Show a presentation in a senior center about the use of web cameras and computers to communicate with family, versus bringing an older adult to sit in front of a web camera and a computer and start up a live conversation with a grandchild hundreds or thousands of miles away.
And in other blog posts from August:
Are older adults disconnected from technology or marketers? Pew Research and others have been releasing report after report about technology use, but without a summary sheet, marketers might not be able to see the forest for the trees. review the basics from the past year of Pew-published surveys – to my knowledge, the only source for this number of categories that include 50+ age cohorts. While there has been some hype about the growing boomer cohort on Facebook and quite a bit of noise about gadgets and boomers, Pew Research numbers may be the ones to study – since their methods are at least consistent among their own reports.
Whither the senior PC? A few years ago Microsoft and HP tried to launch a Senior PC which can still be found online, but at $1200 went nowhere. Then in June, 2009, FirstSTREET launched the GO Computer – a thin client/cloud-based software offering from MyGait (at $899); today they are promoting the Telikin which starts at $699. Pretty soon a small slew of vendors surfaced with software to make the PC tolerable to older adults: InTouchlink, PointerWare (both Toronto-based) and ConnectedLiving, VitalLink.net, and others. What they all have in common? Low-priced subscription (or free) consumer software that can run on any PC, ideally for the vendor, benefiting from large licensing deals with senior housing.
Is a disaster required to improve focus on older adults? On March 11 of this year, one-third of the 16,000 Japanese tsunami deaths were among the 65+, no doubt embarrassing the citizens and government, who most likely believed they had done a good job of providing for an aging population. An article in The Gerontologist spells out why: In 1989 the Japanese government developed a vision for long-term care, refined in 2000 with its own slogan "from care by family to care by society” complete with "policy to make home, community-based and institutional services a universal entitlement" based on physical and mental status regardless of family availability and economic status.