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Aging in Place Technology Watch November 2010 Newsletter

Two tin cans and a wire -- is that common sense?  Over the hopping month of November, we learned that 500 million people will be using mHealth (mobile Health, sometimes also called wireless health and telehealth) by 2015.  But wait -- not so fast. Then came the wet blanket study from Yale -- the NY Times article described the 'disappointing results' with remote monitoring efficacy. The article quoted Eric Dishman, who "noted that the monitoring system in the Yale study relied on the patients to phone in their daily results. Many failed to do so."  So what the Yale study proved is that the use of technology with a bad process produces a disappointing result.  No kidding.  And because it was in the New England Journal of Medicine and written up in the NY Times, no doubt initiatives that are underway to extend deployment of remote monitoring of chronic disease will now be hobbled into re-justifying and explaining why their study is different, that their results (like the Veteran's Administration) are positive, blah, blah. That their forward motion is based on automatic transmission of results, automatic analysis of exceptions to baseline status, and a phone call TO the patient from a nurse. That after three months, more than 55% would still be participating because they received a benefit from being part of the study.  Now that would show common sense.

Is the future already here -- in the UK city of Newcastle?  Often quoted and sometimes credited to science fiction writer William Gibson, this line really describes the technology-enabled world of aging: "The future is already here -- it's just not evenly distributed." Ain't it the truth. At the end of 9 weeks of travel/speaking/repeating the case for technology for aging, much of what I talk about seems to startle members of the audience. But sometimes what I hear from others surprises me as well: at the Aging Means Business event sponsored by the Gerontological Society of America, I heard a compelling story -- Gary Moulton of Microsoft described the increasingly age-friendly city of Newcastle in the UK, a living laboratory where the Active Age Consortium (with its partners, the MIT AgeLab and Microsoft) are promoting multiple dimensions of aging, including 'mobility, wellbeing, work, and community' -- and actively signing up researchers and businesses intent on technology-enabling the city's aging population. Check out the Campus for Ageing & Vitality ("bringing together University, health care, volunteer sector and business activities to work together to generate innovation in products and services for the support of healthy ageing and independence through-life"), which is part of the Institute for Ageing & Health. Gary also talked about Newcastle Science City, which is exploring new businesses that will improve the quality of life of older adults. Here's hoping that a few of the initiatives in Newcastle are widely promoted and capture the imagination of other cities.

Custom home electronics professionals -- how will they seize the opportunity? When CEPro names 'aging in place/home health' as one of its top 5 opportunities in 2011, along with consumer video conferencing, one could get excited about the possibility that these licensed, trained installers who are (by definition) local, could market/promote these services locally.  I hope so -- because fewer than 20% of CE dealers even dabbled in aging in place last year, according to Julie Jacobson, CEPro's editor-at-large, who spoke recently on a GrandCare call.  Without local marketing of these capabilities, will these professionals push forward? Can the national association, CEDIA provide marketing materials for the age-in-place opportunity?  Without local individuals, perhaps partnered with local geriatric care managers or age-related organizations, how will useful tech for enabling aging at home actually get into the homes of those who need it?

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