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Tech for quality of (an aging) life

The rise of AgeTech – it is a trend. It’s easy to say, and it resonates -- especially compared to other long-standing terms like assistive technology, gerontechnology and durable medical equipment (DME). Parks Associates published a useful chart this week about the Changing form factors of panic buttons – take a look. But that was not the real subject of the article (thankfully). Rather, it suggested that while form factors are changing (from pendant to smart watch to home sensor technology), the shortage of labor in the caregiving market means that tech to help 66 million caregivers matters more than ever. In fact, one in five ‘broadband’ households is currently or will soon care for a family member, likely remaining in their own or a relative’s home.

Tech for quality of life – aging or not? What Parks titles ‘The Senior Assistive Solution Spectrum’ includes non-tech categories, including home accessibility improvements, DME products like wheelchairs, ramps, shower seats, as well as medication tracking. But the intriguing part of that picture is on the right side – which includes PERS and home-based sensor systems and also includes security systems, mobile/smart phones, smart speakers, and smart watches. Consider whether those four categories are AgeTech or ‘assistive solutions.’ Or are these ‘quality of life’ technologies for all ages, especially those who live alone or in rural areas?

Drawing the AgeTech line. Note the changing demographics that have driven messaging and terminology. The oldest baby boomer (of the total of 54 million) is 76; 34% of the US population is aged 50+ (meaning 108 million people); 12% of that 50+ population are solo agers (13 million) -- previously and hideously titled ‘elder orphans.’ Examining those numbers, one might think this is an exciting time to be investing in or offering this AgeTech – especially studying this well-populated Market Map. But where does tech for everyone's quality of life (that is, AllTech) end and AgeTech begin? And where does caregiver tech fit? Or does it just overlap with everything else? And is AgeTech more about market positioning for specific audiences, and far less about product specialization itself?

Now consider AllTech. Perhaps what we need as we age may be what many already have or may soon acquire. How about a broadband connection in the home, a voice-activated smartphone with an associated smart watch and smart speaker/display? What about hearables for listening to music on a walk, a smart TV for streaming, a computer (to actually write text!), and finally those motion-activated nightlights so we don’t break our necks in the dark? The combination of those may require (re)training for the uninitiated and after every update. But maybe they will all just work and be useful at every age. And with those capabilities we can begin to monitor our own health, have a teleheatlth session, track our medications, and even have our falls detected prior to injury. We can assist caregivers, engage with our long-distance family members and adjust the font-size, colors, and sound volume to accommodate changing vision and hearing. Then brand it 'AllTech for Older Adults.'  Doesn't that sound nice?  And wouldn't that clear up startup confusion between whether a new tech is required or just more targeted marketing?

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