Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) protocol that supports streaming to hearing aids.

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Policy action on aging and technology – let's expect results

Should we expect change from aging-related tech policy initiatives? The answer is yes. Many are chosen, ideas are circulated from a long list of participants -- good ideas are collected and then the initiative is disbanded.  Maybe it is because the government changes a year later, but the net result is that recommendations appear, but measurements of status or success may not.  A good example from the past 3 years: the PCAST report, summarized in an ASA publication by David Lindeman: 'Independence, Technology, and Connection in Older Age."  A prior report recommending change in the hearing technology industry may have contributed to or encouraged the sale of PSAPs and the introduction in 2018 sale of over-the-counter hearing aids – and may have encouraged additional categories of hearing aids and the growth of interest in 'hearables.’  So to the degree that there is a connection, that’s a good outcome.

Look at the other recommendations – and there is some visible change 3 years later. Online services and protection from scams and fraud? Nope – scams and fraud cost seniors $37 billion per year – and while banks have made efforts – and a 2018 law enables reporting of suspected fraud, there is a ways to go to protect seniors from financial exploitation – which saw a 12% increase in 2018.  And in 2018, telehealth reimbursement programs accelerated, with Medicare Advantage reimbursement expected in 2020.  Regulation of home design to sustain independence? No. Regulation of cognitive training programs? No.  Policies to improve innovation in assistive and robotic technologies? None detected.  

As for "better design guidelines to improve product design for older adults’ needs?" No, no, no.  It’s all getting worse -- from glass screen sensitivity in smartphones that make them difficult to use with any tremors; to the cost of high speed connectivity; to setting up WiFi; to password creation rules; to enabling devices in the home to print; to introducing new devices that one way or the other make the old device worth abandoning, thus creating a whole new learning and update cycle. The complexity and lack of integration across products and categories is worse than ever. The pace of tech change is accelerating and the rate at which devices become obsolete is user-hostile. And those devices that stick around (half of iPads in the world) cannot be updated for new apps or improved security.

Moving on to today’s recommendations from another White House task force on aging. The report is Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population – issued last month -- March, 2019. This time, the recommendations were to go forth and innovate – including more good ideas about hearing tech (some in progress). A few new categories were included, including tech to assist with eating, improve hygiene and medication management; improving access to transportation and better mobility; and improving access to coordinated care – a key issue as the boomers age.  It’s been just a month now since the report was released – looking forward to seeing commentary on websites like asaging.org (ASA) where the 2016 summary was posted, Leading Age (likewise), and of course CMS (Coordinated care and care planning) – access to healthcare and improved driver safety (perfect for AARP).  So how about it? Who is thinking over one of these recommendations? What's new that may not have been visible to report creators? Who has done a detailed read and has an up-to-date list on innovations underway?

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