Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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Tech for aging at home – plenty of news, what’s the meaning?

In tackling aging with tech -- interesting few weeks.  Sometimes odd things happen in sequences that beg a backward search for meaning. So let’s recap: within the past three weeks, Silicon Valley VCs invested in a presumably tech-enabled home care agency, Apple and IBM coughed up 5 million iPads for Japanese seniors (to “tackle aging”), and the US Senate held a hearing on the benefits of technology for those aging at home. Some might see these three disparate events, when viewed together, as a trend that shows how tech, big companies, and public policy are all coming together in an age-related trifecta of tech transformation. Whew!

What happens next – in home care? Consider these one at a time – the Honor investment of $20 million has no doubt invigorated the mindset of home care industry players, the websites and tech companies that serve that industry, and probably triggered a San Francisco-area debate about hourly wages, which were already pretty high by industry norms.  But has Honor disrupted that industry? The ‘request a caregiver for an hour’ picture frame glosses nicely over the recruit-vet-manage-reward-retain aspects of home care. This an industry that continues to be nearly all about people -- versus technology solutions that monitor them – family members, home care worker/company, care recipient, and repeat. But $20 million enables thinking more about platforms, devices, decision support, and family communication. Impact on industry? Limited.

What happens next – postal services and the last mile? One might imagine that the Apple-IBM-Japan Post partnership would be the first of more initiatives elsewhere. First point – the struggling post office was privatized in Japan, in 2009 and has generated new revenue streams, offering ‘last mile’ services in insurance and banking, in addition to mail, and its Watch Over service is also fee-based and addresses the country’s conundrum of an aging population, with many seniors located in villages that younger family members have abandoned. This has not been attempted in European countries, which struggle with elder care – though other uses of postal services are thriving – Deutsche Poste, La Poste in France, and USPS, for examples, offer direct marketing assistance and/or direct mailers.

What happens next in public policy – tech for seniors?  Not much near term. The Senate hearing on tech for aging began with technology examples and potential, the committee senators acknowledging that future costs associated with an aging population, specifically, Medicaid and Medicare, are troubling – and tech solutions are needed to enable seniors to live independently at home. But current committee players Susan Collins of Maine and Claire McCaskill of Missouri are recent appointments; no legislation related to this topic is on the table. Members present asked what legislation could even be undertaken – other than efforts to expand rural broadband?  I made a few suggestions for enabling seniors at home with nationwide discounts for broadband and wireless services, discounts on tech products, or national aging in place home remodeling building codes (not just a special week in October).

Comments

Laurie,

We have developed sensor driven, patented technology that acts as an invisible caregiver to seniors aging in place, without the need for the senior to wear a device. We believe this to be unique and a game changer for seniors living independently, together with their children and caregivers. As with previous bloggers, I just wanted to let you know that something new is coming soon, and we're out here! David Edwards, CEO at Motiosens, Inc.

Laurie, I think Sen. Collins may be a great advocate. Maine is the oldest state and she is well aware of the issues of the vast majority of seniors who often do not have a lot of money or access to technology. (Or live in the rural areas of the US-- disproportionately full of older people-- where you might not be able to access cell phone service and many people do not have internet access). At any rate, Susan Collins is personable, humble and practical and from a northern Maine county full of older people.

On a somewhat different subject, I was just noticing that Google has given a group $500K to develop smart phone apps for hearing impaired. I hope they talk to consumers who are hard of hearing, but my hopes are dim. As you have said, older people (who are more likely to have hearing issues) often do not have smart phones and if they do, often do not use apps. As I have an impairment, I would be hesitant to use a smart phone as flip phones work better for me. I continue to believe most products are developed by able bodied 20 somethings in a locked conference room. I also think they have never heard the words “health literacy.” Personally, I would like someone to develop a battery less hearing aid or an easy way to insert batteries. That would be worth $500K! Ann