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Investors and providers must transform AgeTech market from products into suites

The population is aging – and still, the tech solution market is immature.  Investors of all types demonstrate interest in a product here and an offering there.  Competitions highlight product winners; money is raised for one product at a time.  One reason for the immaturity of the market is the behavior of buyers. Senior living companies buy a product for this and an offering for that. The future is predicted to incorporate new technology like AI – but that is always ‘in the future.’ Everyone agrees that AI could enhance retirement living and healthcare, but deployment of new offerings is always described as in the future. No other software categories in tech history – consider office, finance, supply chain –  remain a laundry list of point products when markets expect suites.

It's past time for the AgeTech market to catch up to population change.  One sentence about the numbers should suffice. Today there are 24 million people aged 75 or older.  Only 1.5 million live in nursing homes and only 800,000 live in assisted living. The majority of the 75+ live at home, supposedly ‘aging in place’, with nearly half of the women living alone.  They are served by a patchwork of regional services, agencies, home care franchises, and home health workers and if available, family caregivers. There is a struggle to hire and keep people across all worker categories and locations.  A patchwork of companies is unlikely to think holistically about all the services and tech products that could help their constituents when their conditions and status changes.  And per their own websites, intentions are good, but they can’t keep up with the changes in the market, such as when product companies are acquired and disappear.

The investors and large providers can move the needle on marketplace maturity. Today’s AgeTech approaches to fostering innovation for older adults are admirable. They are found in startup directories, conference exhibit halls, and events run by NIC and LeadingAge.  Startups and current market entrants will be in the exhibit halls and be featured in articles.  But these reinforce a market approach that values starting companies but does not demonstrate ways to evolve them to become part of solutions. While encouraging startups is laudable, evolving them into grouped solutions or suites representing multiple categories of need would really move the needle on care delivery across all settings. 

It's time for a suite mindset for investors and large providers. Instead of a product here and a clever offering there, seek combinations of well-tested offerings that span a range of older adult circumstances, health status and quality of life issues. While it may not be time yet for deep technology-based integration, investors and providers should encourage marketing of combinations of offerings to address, for example, mobility, health management, and home safety (see example-only suites in Figure 1). Or caregiving and dementia care. Once the investors and providers envision B2B suites of solutions, they may find that products are largely in the market already and need investment to grow. Then the intermediaries and smaller providers will want to envision and eventually market their use of suites when planning for the future.

 

Manage health and chronic conditions suite

Symptom verification

Remote Monitoring

Medication management

Hearing loss

Managing regulatory change

Maintain mobility suite

Exercise tools

Devices

Well-maintained product directory

Up-to-date transportation tools

Tech for peer support

Provide home and safety suite

Home security systems

Smart doorbells

Temperature and air quality monitors

In-home fall detection

Wearables

Figure 1 Examples of AgeTech suites 

 

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