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Technology for seniors – why have a separate category?
Everything and nothing is in the caregiving innovation frontier. Keep slogging through the enormous market scoped in the AARP Caregiving Innovations Frontiers report. Study the teeny-tiny vendor icons (the only reference to market entrants in the document). Icons can be included for offerings that are not yet in the US market, or were produced at a 3-day hackathon (like Witness) and abandoned, or they're yet not a fit in the 'caregiving' world (like Lyft or Uber), or they're no longer a standalone business, like BeClose, Lively, Isowalk, and DoctorAHA).
Who is that caregiver anyway? Picking through these icon logos, an image forms of the caregiver as a San Francisco smartphone-wielding yuppie -- who may be related to or know a care recipient – but is too busy or too lazy to provide care on the one hand, cook dinner or even do their own wash. These services may (or may not) still be in business but they are not even tangentially connected to whatever the definition is of caregiving: (another gig-economy entrant, Laundrycare.biz) or targeting the wealthier segment the market (munchery?) Yet the obvious was missing – uh, in a report about caregiving, where is Caring.com in the page about long-term care referral?
But the report offers another image – is this the real message? The AARP 'frontiers' report doesn't highlight technologies within the category of caregiving – implying instead that tech, online services, and however-loosely-related ‘useful’ subjects are all potentially relevant for caregivers who don’t self-identify and thus could be almost anyone. That may become increasingly true for senior technology, which is really about a demographic (44 million people aged 65+ or the 100 million in the Longevity Economy). Their needs and interests cover such a broad spectrum as to be almost as meaningless as this Parks observation: “by 2020, 117 million Americans are expected to need assistance of some kind.”
What if there is no 'senior' technology category? Perhaps 'seniors' who are sometimes 50+, sometimes a nicely vague subset (60, 62, 65? other?) will have technology needs that vary just as widely. A substantial sub-group will want exactly what their adult children and grandchildren are using. Another sub-group will want to make sure hearing or vision assistance are features, voice recognition is feasible, app menus can be customized to a short list, that a call center or family can be reached. Perhaps the product is really, as with GreatCall, a service. Maybe for some, there is a TRAIN ME or Easy Mode button (not buried under Settings) for getting started, placed on the home page, a link to training services, along with an EMERGENCY button. Those features can all be placed or customized on smartphones, tablets, and desktop or laptops right now – no longer requiring specialized hardware software, but instead, benefiting greatly from workshops (online or in person) for refreshers or filling gaps.