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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.)

Plus Google+ and the over-communicated life.   Yes, now I am ranting. Please, please explain why businesses, including mine, must extend what they pay attention to in LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google alerts, RSS feeds of blog posts from all over the place, news services, e-mail, chats…and (drumroll) add Google+?  No one wants to leave a social media rock unturned, of course. If there is a reader, a client, a product buyer lurking behind Google+ door number 4, we want that person to hear us, to know us and, uh, hang out in our circles.  Or do we?  Perhaps the first shall be lonely and the last shall figure it out.  As I scan my 24 LinkedIn Groups, many of whom do an excellent job of aggregating and delivering e-mail digests, my eyes glaze at the thought that Google+ circles could swell into giant globular communication hulahoops, drowning out or more likely aggregating for search the tweets, pokes, baby pictures, feeds from the other social sites? And what about the coupon feed sites?  Arrghh.  We and the vendors who want to reach us are fighting over a tiny land area – our attention spans, dwindling at an overloaded and ever-faster rate – till there will be nothing left but a chance to get up and go outside.

Can grass-roots volunteer networks combine with technology? Ask Dr. Allan Teel of Damariscotta, Maine, author of Alone and Invisible No More. He will assert (and inspire) those who want to help the oldest old remain in their homes, shored up by a “Maine Approach” with a committed family care practice, a volunteer network of seniors with newly acquired purpose, hosting other frail seniors in their homes – and most of all, helping the oldest remain in their homes secure in the knowledge that someone is watching out for them. Underpinning their efforts -- monitoring of status with the combined solution of web cameras, PERS devices, home sensing technology – is a belief that technology is an enabler that can knit a community together in a common goal of helping each other. 

And in other blog posts from July:

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.

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.

Smartphone futurists take heart.  Your blood pressure is-isn’t 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.

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