AARP’s Care Gap report sets the table for innovation possibilities. Driven purely by population changes over the next several decades, AARP predicts that there will be fewer people in the age group (45-64) that can provide care to the baby boomer population when aged 80+. Based on this model, says the report, boomers at that age will likely have various disabilities and thus may need some level of care. What technology categories would be useful and likely in-market with this multi-year lead time to think about them? Of course, today there are millions of people who are 80+, but if you follow AARP’s logic, today there seem to be enough available family members, home care, nursing home and assisted living aides between the ages of 45 and 64 to care for them (emphasis on available). If caregiving availability shrinks, what are the technology implications for those who would serve that future wave of baby boomers?
- Price of caregiving services will rise significantly. A given in a time of scarcity, we will need more and thus pay more for home care and assisted living services, which by then will incorporate monitoring technologies as part of level-of-service pricing. But higher prices will strain affordability for many adult children. So new models of care will need to be added to the service mix to meet the needs of a broader range of purchase power. These will include mix-and-match drop-in and adult day programs, particularly for those with dementia, and some may be offered in senior housing settings. For example, these services could include more transactional purchases for short respites – permitting family caregivers to go shopping or meet a friend for lunch. It will be common see adult day by-the-hour programs similar to child care programs of today -- near or in supermarkets, gyms, parks and playgrounds, as well as corporate offices.
- Those alone at home will benefit from ramped up communication and health monitoring. For those 80+ who live independently, video connection – with family, peers, and care service providers -- will be far more widespread by 2030. The 18% of the 65+ who have tablets today will have grown to near 100%. So remote monitoring and check-in services of those who remain in their own homes will be common, propelled by nearby or long-distance family members. Or a professional caregiving service will provide a low-cost video check-in option in addition to services delivered in person. Professional care companies (and extended senior housing 'virtual' services) will offer a menu of these check-in packages to allow subscribers to customize frequency, device type, language and whether in-home and/or outside access is required. All-things-health monitoring of chronic diseases will be considerably more miniaturized, wearable, and ubiquitous -- raising ever more questions along the way about privacy and sharing of this information.
- Mobile and security service providers will stop dabbling and serve. As the baby boom wave crosses age 80, the numbers will simply be too vast to ignore. Carriers that play around in the mobile PERS market and security companies that did not take the remote monitoring opportunity seriously in 2013 will eventually get it. Telephone service plans will routinely be configured with mobile senior services that incorporate wellness, safety, concierge and activity monitors. When participants opt in, their data will be easily consolidated with other health information – like noticing that rising cholesterol and blood pressure data correlates with declining mobility. Perhaps that’s an opportunity to provide fee-based coaching contact – either from an individual’s health care provider or from a general and included service. At minimum, check-in calls will be standard offerings in conjunction with PERS-like services.
- Standalone PERS will be supplanted by smarter phones that go the distance. The limitations of the standalone PERS market and today’s mediocre battery life issues of smart phones and mobile PERS will be long forgotten. Smart phones (Genius Phones?) will be customizable in ways that meet the needs of an enormous 80+ population, including support for variable touch along with view, speech, sound and level of privacy. Still, tech upgrades will continue and frequency will accelerate, changing features of apps and device at a breakneck pace. All ages, including seniors aged 80+, will benefit from demonstration classes and cafés in a variety of retail settings. Retailers will offer more in-store promotions like try-with-option-to-buy, coughing up wide variability in contract and service options that match the purchase power of the 80+ population. For frequent or ongoing training, options will range from on-device video to TV-based training channels to in-store video theaters -- and mobile training services that are as ubiquitous as the UPS truck.
- En route to 80+, baby boomers drive incremental near-term market changes. As the baby boomers age along their path to becoming the largest 80+ population EVER, product marketers and retailers with something to offer them have a long lead time to prepare. Unimaginative DME-type retailers will have a consciousness-raising moment, looking beyond their $34 billion market to evaluate strategies for 'other' categories. Beyond jar-opening gadgets and retailer upgrades to lighting, aisle and seating in pharmacies, shops of all sizes and types will accommodate. Remembering that baby boomers today have much more money than their debt-ridden adult children or grandchildren, others may follow in Amazon's path to develop a boomer-senior site -- and maybe outdo its lack of imagination. One day, noticing the local demography and missed sales opportunities, will store managers be trained to observe how many times an older person walks in and out without stopping? Or will they simply not notice a not-so-silent generation? In that case, perhaps boomers in their 80+ and beyond years will savor their online shopping experiences, customized in the privacy of their own homes.