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Are tech innovators ageist -- or have they just not considered seniors?

Some cool tech enters the market. Consider the Apple introduction of the HealthKit (for the health care industry) and the smartwatch which joins the Pebble (which helped fuel interest in smartwatches) and Samsung smartwatches.  Intel found smartwatches intriguing enough to sponsor a clinical trial in conjunction with Parkinson's disease.  Why? Smartwatches (and smartphones) contain accelerometers that enable the device to determine sudden motion -- like detecting a fall, gyroscope and compass to detect whether you're on of the 61 million people out there running.  And they are able to determine location by enabling GPS position of the device. These devices have geofencing capability -- used in Apple devices for setting up a Location Reminder when you arrive at or leave a location (don't forget to do such-and-so errand).

Runners and exercise dominate the applied use of bands and watches.  Prowl around the marketing materials for more wearable devices -- check out the NY Times guide to themJawbone Up 24 tracks inactivity and reminds to get moving. The BodyMedia armband measures perspiration and skin temperature. Could that  address the senior risk of dehydration?  This next CES may have even more of these gadgets than last year's.  But will any of these be applied, as this startup is attempting to do with not-yet-shipping CarePredict Tempo device, to learn activities and detect variation?  Are the other companies afraid of being categorized in the PERS market?  Doubt it -- and doubt that they are even aware of that market, somewhat ironically. Consider its $1 billion-plus market size and established cadre of resellers -- not to mention that the form factor choices may increasingly include a PERS watch

Smartwatch vendors value cool over utility. The emerging wearables market actually has emerged a while ago. Consider the size and international scale of the PERS market and its mobile subset, including products from Philips (with a smartphone app) and Tunstall. Then think about the disconnect between the smartwatches, runners, inactivity tracking and encouragement of the increasingly overweight younger folk. Now find the other future market, the one that intersects the core capabilities in runner devices with the medical alert/PERS market -- envisioned in Next Generation Response Systems?  Throw in the concierge services that Verizon never marketed, but that made their way into concierge services offered by the VillagetoVillage (V2V) network and home care providers.  Voilà! 

The potential is clear -- the path is murky.  Let's summarize those technical innovations -- GPS tracking, fall detection, skin temperature assessment, geofencing -- and consider that the both the smartwatch and PERS may be available at the very same retailers. Note that PERS devices can be linked to call centers, and service providers are ready and waiting. One company markets a pile of stuff for runners and quantified selfers. Uh, that murky market may have stalled. Another firm markets to seniors and their families and even offers watches -- that market has a customer that only keeps the device for 2-3 years.  There may be no way to cross this chasm without a big leap, some cross-hiring of staff, rethinking styles, images and marketing messages, finding new channels and…what else?  What do you think?



the average AliveCor customer is over 60 years old (closer to 65) so we have definitely NOT FORGOTTEN seniors. Most AFib patients are seniors so our target market is definitely older than 30! ;)

Dr Dave


Apologies in advance for what may seem like self-serving comments:

All the things you are describing and wishing for the aging in place market are available today in the Lively Smart Emergency Response ( And to be fair you were one of the original inspirations in Jan 2012

Great to hear that companies are not ageist -- and in fact target seniors.  But I was trying (and apparently not succeeding) to make a different point.

Today’s startup is being taught to develop a minimally viable product (MVP). To the vast majority of entrepreneurs, they believe it’s OK to develop and sell a product that doesn’t always work because the early adopters will forgive them. Add in the extra overheads it takes to provide a quality product and needed support to a demographic that struggles with technology, and most startups will run for the hills because they can’t even break even financially. Even the large companies say they are committed but they’re more talk than walk. I believe most advances in tech to help people with unique needs will occur by those of us who leverage someone else’s designs in ways the original designers didn’t imagine.

We believe managing seniors vital signs through WiFi/Cloud based devices such as Glucose Meters, Blood Pressure and weight Scales offer unique value proposition for seniors chronic conditions.

Instead of concentrating on gadget mentality there are many useful technologies available for taking care of the seniors needs through internet and Cloud.

Excellent points, Laurie. I think it's fair to assume that not only do tech innovators not consider seniors in general, they barely consider patients (not to be confused with the "worried well" of the Quantified Self movement).

We know for example that even those (young! healthy! not sick!) fans of wearable trackers/health apps stop using them in alarmingly high numbers once the rosy glow of infatuation wears off. As the Endeavor Partners survey found earlier this year, half of respondents said that they no longer use their activity tracker, and over one-third stopped using the device within six months - and those are the keeners! I'm still waiting to hear about a similar survey of Real Live Patients living with complex chronic diagnoses and what Dr. Victor Montori calls "the burden of treatment". What they don't need is yet another alert reminding them to take their pill or get up and move (and their physicians do NOT want an avalanche of running updates on every change in those patients' vitals).

I just read an interview with a well-known "medical futurist" who listed all of the wearables he sports every day (Runkeeper, Muse, DuoLingo, Lumosity, AliveCor, Withings, Tinké, Pebble, Fitbit and Wahoo). I sure hope his Fitbit is working better than mine. Despite the product's promise of a 4-6 months battery life, for example, mine died at just 7 weeks. When I visited Fitbit Support's online community, I found pages of similar complaints - including many buyers who said their batteries were lasting ONE WEEK.

What senior (or young chronically ill patient) is going to put up with that?

You are so correct, Laurie.
Many people choose denial rather than the facts. Pew Research and others have provided facts on this subject but refuse to face the truth for some odd reason. I have a funding campaign running on Indiegogo to provide a support service for seniors and others that are struggling in their efforts to learn how to use high-tech devices. I’m afraid denial on this subject is rampant even in the face of facts.

Help change how society learns to use high-tech devices!
Pew Research findings -

Social City Net – -


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