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Let's focus our lens on caregiving -- technology and beyond

Tech we talk about -- health -- the much-hyped investment opportunity. We talk ad nauseum about health innovation, often in the context of an aging society -- from StartupHealth, Rock Health, Health 2.0, and AARP's own Health@50+.  And we're wired beyond saturation with new health device tech announcements, from the advance swooning about Apple everything (never seen so many health dreams and now, security worries!) and Samsung nearly-everything-else (never seen so many device shapes!)  And there was plenty of health tech talk at the AARP Ideas@50+ in San Diego -- see Health Interactive@50+.

Tech we talk about -- devices -- easier to use, bundled with service. The AARP executives were proud -- last week they could talk about their new RealPad -- a joint venture between AARP TEK and Intel to provide an easy-to-use tablet, AARP's first tech device: "We are filling a gap in the lives of 70 million Americans who are 50 and over who are not really digitally connected." And GreatCall executives were proud of GreatCall's new smartphone -- the Touch3: "Touch3's access to exclusive health and safety services at the touch of a button is at the core of what makes it truly smart. These pre-loaded apps make it easy to stay independent." 

Lots of talk, but more tech needed -- caregiving. Howard Gleckman (author of the Death of Nursing Homes) is the gloomy Eeyore of aging topics. See his skeptical writing on the 2015 White House Conference and note his thoughts on caregiving technology in which he oberves that not much has happened, there's too much 'self-serving junk on websites.' He blames the consumer -- who won't spend any money on caregiving technology and yet who is willing, he asserts, to make a $100,000 mistake picking a nursing home rather than spend $500 on a geriatric care manager to help with selection.  But is ignorance really the consumer's fault?  Or is obfuscation and lack of oversight entrenched in a senior housing industry that pays for leads or self-governs by rating itself?  

Lots of talk, more tech needed -- protecting seniors from swindles. Opening Saturday's New York Times, there it was again -- another article about seniors being swindled by people they trusted ("Financial Schemes Against the Elderly Are Increasing").  Not to put too fine a point on it, but that article had absolutely no data about whether swindles ARE increasing -- only predictions that they WILL increase based on the growing prevalence of older people in the population. Okay, never mind about that. Good luck instead searching for tools to prevent senior scams and fraud, especially as perpetrated by family members and caregivers. At the San Diego event, AARP was promoting its Fraud Watch Network ("scam alerts delivered right to your inbox.") A new company, EverSafe, "prevents fraud, unauthorized use of credit cards, unusual cash withdrawals, missing deposits and abnormal changes in spending patterns."  And a new entrant TrueLink Financial, is offering a pre-paid card to "block purchases at specific stores or types of merchant, set and adjust spending limits, receive alerts about suspicious charges, and auto-reload from a linked bank account on a schedule or as needed."

That's a good start -- but... Let's consider the analogy with checking account overdraft protection.  Many have that feature on checking accounts because of uncertainty about record-keeping talent for managing deposits, withdrawals, and payments. Drivers can take a refresher training course to help us be cautious on the road, keeping skills sharp. It seems like there is another training program we need, akin to AAA's Drivesharp that reminds us to be a bit wary. Instead of vehicles suddenly appearing in peripheral vision, we learn to be wary of people, seemingly well-intentioned, some possibly in the family, who are just outside of financial peripheral vision. How can we be informed about this Trust But Verify approach? Maybe we learn from a brochure at the bank, or from talking with the tellers, listening to financial advisors, at the supermarket service counter (think of food safety warnings), or at the community center, from an attorney who is drawing up Power of Attorney documents. 


Thanks Laurie for your usual highly informative blog. I was interested to read about Realpad, and on looking at their site I see they have decided to message their new product with a headline saying 'Now there's no excuse for not having tablet'. This may not be a message that will much appeal to people apprehensive about technology! There was an interesting piece of research done here in the UK by the BBC that suggests coercive or guilt-inducing language about accessing technology is a big turnoff for people who are not active online. See
I'd be interested to hear about any similar research from the US.


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