There are multiple ways to view the technology market for aging in place -- in the 2009 Market Overview, relevance is described as matching stages of frailty, and products are categorized by role in successful aging. Recently we took a look at life stage decision-points and how they trigger a need or desire for a technology that may be in the market. Today let's match a few of these decision points with 2009 tech trends, recent Microsoft-AARP Baby Boomers and Technology coverage, making a few recommendations.
- New infrastructure becomes available. When access to broadband among the 65+ population jumps from 19% to 30% in one year, a door is thrown open -- and not just because 64-year-olds with broadband got a year older. This opens up access to Facebook, Twitter, and 62,000 health-related websites and ability to research reverse mortgages, get free tech advice, or find new love interests (like the 81-year-old mother in the NY Times article who "found new love and 151 Facebook friends"). Perhaps a parent moves to a warmer climate, an adult child moves away for a job, or retirees look for jobs or supplemental income. What's missing? Not much. How to push/pull and encourage? 2010 is the year in which those who say their mother or father won't put their finger on a touch screen -- go the extra inch to show what it can do for their lives. That way, maybe their parents won't have to wait until they're 105, like Will Clark, to get their first computer.
- Release from hospital or rehab. Elder care resource directories and caregiver portals are the first line of defense for freaked-out family members trying to decide how and where care can be delivered, looking for home care help, assisted living, nursing home, shoring up helpful (or unhelpful) discharge planners. What's missing? These online tools are at version 1.0 when it comes to combining multiple data sources and tapping deeper level attributes. Instead, we need decision-support tools that link geographic searches to survey results to cost calculator by geography to financing options to amenity analysis. For example, find me an assisted living community under a certain size and price, with computer support for residents, and a music program.
- Death of a spouse. No matter at what age, this is a traumatic plunge into isolation. This is a chance to open up communication with a location-aware cell phone and introduction of high-speed Internet access service, an easy-to-use touch laptop with e-mail, web surfing with a preset list of favorites, and a built in or external camera for video calls with long-distance relatives. What's missing? For starters, family locator phone plans from Verizon or AT&T need to be bundled with the rest of their 'quad play'. And all new tech products need 'simple mode' (see Boomers and Technology). Call it 'getting started' or 'quick start' guidance after starting up device or software.
- Preventive health regime initiated. 2009 was a health-and-tech year, starting with government funding, but startups and app writers saw potential. Whether it's at the 'get out and get healthy' arena or apps for your doctor. As the year ends, mobile health apps are a hot revenue sub-category -- tracking your vital signs, caloric intake, your pills, etc. Downloading of mobile apps is big -- ongoing use, not yet clear. And home-based self-testing of chronic disease indicators -- also big. Somewhat ironically, it turns out that baby boomers are entering their sixties sicker than the prior generation, so health-related tech promises to be hotter than ever in 2010. What's missing? 1) Your doctors -- and the transmission of data results their medical practices can accomodate and 2) Your motivation 3) Iincentives and penalties that make it all but impossible to ignore.
- Onset of physical condition. Given the above, here are other reminders: today there are 31 million people with hearing loss, 25 million with vision loss, 43 million with arthritis, and so on (see baby boomer sicker link above). What's missing? Acknowledgement from vendors. Isn't it amazing that BlackBerry and cell phone keys are so small and/or so close together, that font-size defaults are small and that voice activation isn't a norm to be de-activated if you don't want it? From the NY Times comments, we need more products like: "Oticon hearing aids with a Bluetooth interface that syncs to 5 different devices" including streaming audio from a BlackBerry. A rhetorical question: Why is 'assistive' technology typically a completely separate category when all technology could offer more assistance? 2010 will also see further home retrofit and automation businesses that incorporate basic safety features like IP cameras, environmental sensing and remote environmental monitoring and management.
And this just in -- Amazon.com reports that the Kindle was the most 'gifted' item in Amazon history. Gee, I wonder whether the recipients were boomers or seniors?
More ideas, as always, are welcome.