A trip down advocacy lane. Whew. I just came back from downtown Washington DC, where I was within a short walk of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the organization that sponsors the certification for aging in place -- CAPS. But of course, if I turned in any direction, my head was spinning -- there was the Association of This and the Society of That, the Center for Shared Prioritization of An Agenda For Now, and the Advocates for Advocacy of Something Else.
Aging services is represented by multiple advocacy organizations. This week is the kickoff of a big aging services industry event -- the ASA/NCOA Aging in America Conference. As one long-time industry leader pointed out to me, things are good now -- this conference used to be two separate conferences! The list of advocacy organizations that have an aging-related services or technology agenda is long -- and when you add caregiving as an overlapping but related topic (I was attending Care.com's sponsored Care Summit) -- it gets longer:
No doubt there are others that I've missed. And just to get ahead of things a bit, this list is in no way implying that these organizations should not exist, that they should combine, or any other negative thought about any of them or of their intent. But...
Creating product awareness among so many is difficult. Many of you have heard me cite the 2007 Clarity study from a few years back that surveyed baby boomers' interest in technology support for the care for their aging parents. Fifty-one percent of baby boomers in that survey believed that technology would help them in the care of their aging parents, but only 14% had looked for any. Baby boomers are not neglectful and uncaring. Rather, this is a reflection of the lack of marketing and visibility of those products that they could use. Only one product category is widely recognizable as an aging services product -- and those outside of the industry invariably refer to it the same way -- "Oh, you mean the 'I've fallen and I can't get up' buttons." Right.
Does advocacy fragmentation hide the vendors? New products emerge regularly that are interesting and useful to help in caregiving. This week, I met and learned about AFrame Digital -- add them to the list of monitoring technologies that can help keep seniors safe in their own homes and when they are out and about -- monitoring health status, location, and activity. So which organization from the above list is most important for this fairly new company? If I add health-related categories of wireless health, mobile health, connected health, ehealth, and health 2.0 -- who is most important? Which have events that must be attended? Website lists of vendors?
And who or what is the over-arching entity that will create the super-registry and doorway to visibility that addresses all advocacy groups? Or do new companies need to approach all of them?