The romantic notion of aging in place is becoming a necessity, not a goal. The 2016 Technology Market Overview is complete. Median net worth of the 75+ age range is now $156,000, inclusive of home equity. This is deferring moves to assisted living – its move-in age now a mid-80’s and frailer demographic. But boomers are right behind them – and even less able to move in. They have simply not saved enough – holding an average retirement savings portfolio of only $136,000 – enough for just two years of a private assisted living community like Brookdale. And worse, the average 65-year-old enters retirement years with an unprecedented level of debt.
Caregiving demands of an aging population create a problem and opportunity. According to AARP’s January, 2016 Caregiver Innovation Frontiers Report, 117 million Americans are expected to need assistance of some kind by 2020. However, according to a 2013 AARP policy report, there will simply not be enough family members or even paid workers in the right place at the right time – the caregiver support ratio – to oversee care requirements. And in fact, the gap has already been reached in numerous counties across the US. Will today's home care hype save the day? Not unless technology solutions are integrated into service offerings.
Wearables will matter. Devices like Microsoft Band, Wisewear emergency jewelry, or any of a myriad of PERS offerings will penetrate the older adult market – by 2019, one out of five boomers/seniors will have some type of wearable on their body, whether it is smart clothing, a pendant or a band on their wrist. Recognizing that combinations of capabilities are becoming more relevant to older adults and families, by 2019, most PERS resellers will offer more subtle mobile devices, including watches, combine the transactional PERS activity with predictive analytics – helping to prevent future injury and the penalty of re-hospitalization.
The population aged 75+ becoming more comfortable with the Internet. Pew Research has long-tracked Internet usage through its Internet and American Life project – the survey has been running for the past 15 years and including the population aged 75+. Non adoption of the Internet has dropped from 93% non-usage in 2000 down to 50% in 2015. What was the context? Over 15 years, browsers and carrier speeds improved – and content the Web became more valuable.
Simplified and senior-specific devices lack a long-term market. Simplified tech (for aged 75+) can provide modified tablet interfaces – but as the AARP RealPad proved, specialty versions for the elderly have limited long-term potential. Newer, brighter, faster smartphones will replace tablets, and easier-to-use smartphones or smartphone interfaces will dovetail with market disappearance of the traditional clamshell phone. For seniors to keep up, training is critical – including refreshers from the carrier or company that provided the device.