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Five key trends driving 2016 technology for older adults

A look back to look forward.  Consider the context for 2016 innovation, despite (or as a result of) a still-erratic economy, and smaller-cheaper-better base technologies. At the same time, the assisted living industry watches residential age climbing – over half now are 85+. So the desire (or perhaps the only option) to age at home has further intensified. That has created opportunities like the AARP and Leading Age funds; research initiatives like Baycrest and Philips AgingWell; and startup pitch events like Louisville Innovation Summit, or Aging 2.0. Based on looking back at 2015, here then are five categories of trends for 2016:

Voice:  Innovators will activate a variety of applications. CES 2015 explosion of technologies generated lots of noise, and even products, some specifically useful for older adults, some for health, some less ready and/or more far-fetched possibilities. But late January, Amazon made its Echo – a voice-activated smart Pringles can -- offering available to consumers with an API for others to use to experiment. Hopefully we will see the fruits of Amazon’s $100 million Alexa fund investments.  By the end of 2016, more products of every type will be configurable, sort-of smart, and be activated by voice, including, unfortunately, car technology.  The creepy-factor of always-listening devices will need to be addressed – when they misunderstand instructions, interrupt a (human) conversation, or well-meaning but wrong-headed folk try to substitute voice-enabled sort-of-robots for human care.

Wearables:  Not your mother’s medical alarm -- PERS will branch out.  It was inevitable that fitness wearables were just a first pass at health-on-the-wrist. Apple watches were a hyper-hoopla distraction at first, but their presence set the (uh) pace for acceptance for more wrist-based smarts – despite the failure of minutes-too-late Lively. In 2016, expect to see more health-wearables that are usable by older adults. They will include PERS functionality and more PERS technology linked with other data sources – look for smarter fall detection, proximity sensing, geo-fencing, and/or integration with health data.

Home care:  Home care’s hot entrepreneurs cast new light on caregiving apps. In April, an industry not known for innovation got a few $20 million investor jolts for three 'homigos' (or 'home egos') – Honor was launched in San Francisco, then HomeHero in Los Angeles was infused in June with $23 million, and New York-based Hometeam received $11 million in July. All of these companies will depend on software like ClearCare and even dedicated devices to power and monitor home health status – or even their labor force. Expect 2016 to bring more care delivery technologies as well as monitoring home (and home health) care workers.

IoT:  From hype to a (more) supportive Internet of Caring Things.  The Internet of Things in 2015 was still a cacophony of mostly-nonsense communicating thermostats and toasters.  And the security issues associated with it are no laughing matter.  Forrester noted in July that the Smart Home might not be a standalone growth area. In 2016, let’s assume that tech companies will rise to the challenges of protecting identity, personal data, and health status from connected devices and associated websites.

Telehealth:  Insurance companies and government begin to see the picture.  Long-predicted and now even progressing through legislation, telehealth (remote monitoring, consultation, prescribing) will see inevitable expansion in 2016.  Experts expect continued obstacles – but as deductibles add up, healthcare delivery and drugs will drive costs up – and for adults aged 65+, over their lifespan, higher still. As life expectancy rises along with the effects of chronic diseases and lifestyle, telehealth approaches and smart ways to deliver care more cost effectively will prevail.

Not yet trends in 2016, but soon: With the aging and highly distributed older population growing, it’s a good time to get the bugs out of smarter technology like avatars, robots and AI: this week, the first Baby Boomer turns 70. Next week, CES begins. Let's hope there's a useful connection.


Nice article. I would like to see technologies for older adults focus on minimizing home intrusions for those aging in place that want to maintain as much independence for as long as possible but have MCI. I saw this today - https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151229070713.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fcomputers_math%2Fartificial_intelligence+%28Artificial+Intelligence+News+--+ScienceDaily%29 Seems simultaneously cool and creepy...