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Why isn't tech more appealing?

Lots of 'health' invention.  Next week I am going to Connected Health in Boston, where I will no doubt walk up and down aisles filled with medication management, chronic disease devices, and every type of tech to help doctors do a better job of care of their patients -- and presumably to help patients take better care of themselves.

What captures the imagination of the user?  Will it be a beeping, blinking device to remind about a pill dosage?  Will it be a passive blood pressure cuff, a clinical-looking weight scale, or something else that reminds older people with chronic disease that they are patients, perhaps who also have some cognitive decline, perhaps that's the reason they are being reminded in the first place?

Compliance matters, let's add a bit of fun.  Check these links: we know that older people's past memories are jogged by old movies and old songs. Why not design in some visual or sonic, randomized or user-selected music or video into devices that today are expected to be compelling enough in their own right -- but we know that they aren't. 

Outside the box, people are people, not patients.  The other day I heard about a yet-to-launch medication management system that will include a screen to display other non-med reminders and suggestions ("It's 12:00 noon, did you take the dog for a walk?") This is a great example of thinking outside the 'box' of a medical compliance device that targets patients.  If device manufacturers put the 'person' lens on as they drew up their product designs -- imagined how they could make them more sociable, more interactive, more fun to be around...could be that compliance with the doctor's instructions would improve.

If I see any devices next week that meet the above criteria, I will write about them here.


Most people are in denial about aging..and the requirements of aging well.
Anything that can be done to "reframe" the utility and aesthetics of "aging in place technology" will help consumer adoption.

I look forward to learning about your trip to Boston!

I really like your latest question. Here's one baby boomer's view: too much tech chasing too few seniors too fast! Perhaps it's not that tech isn't appealing, but it's a situation where we have the tech development curve bucking up against the learning curve. Here's the hypothesis: technology and innovation follow Moore's Law where computing power per unit of work (e.g., dollars, person-hours, etc.) doubles every 18 months. But the senior audience (Baby Boomers and The Greatest Generation) were raised and conditioned to learn and absorb new technologies at a slower pace. So, the dynamics are such that the supply of new technologies has overwhelmed the ability of the senior cohort to absorb them. In macro-economic terms, too much supply is chasing too little demand and the development cycle has outpaced the learning cycle.

Consider a great example of a tech not intended for seniors that caught their fancy and sold off the shelves, including Wii Fit and Brain Age. Prior to that happening, one might have concluded that there was no market for seniors and game consoles.  I would argue that the BlackBerry Storm, the iPhone, the Kindle, the iPad, address a previously unidentified need and do so in an appealing way.  I would also argue that technology that people need to manage a chronic disease, for example, that is high cost and low on ease-of-use -- is in the 2 steps forward, 1 step back category.

I think you make a great point Chesley. Through my experience, one has to have a natural curiosity about technology in order to make the effort to use it. Thus, that has kept demand low. I've had experience buying technology gifts for 60+ family members, I would say 98% of those gifts end up unused. I'll show the person all the cool stuff it can do, all the ways it can help them, but they don't get excited by it. Take a cellphone for instance. Yes, it might be cool that you can receive a call anytime and anywhere you are, but to many over 60, that is annoying to them, they don't find that interesting at all. Or take cellphone apps - that requires many to have to put on their reading glasses just to see what's going on. It's even a struggle with the home PC - I'll often hear comments of "why do I need to learn how to use email? I'm doing just fine without it." Conversely, if you talk to a 13 year old, they've grown up in the technology age and there is a natural curiosity to try the newest latest-and-greatest gadget. You could make some new crazy-complicated technology and 13 year olds will still take the time to figure it out.


I'm attending the event and most of the products are designed the way you describe. I thought the best material on Day 1 was from BJ Fogg on Persuasive Technology. His point was that technology succeeds when it helps people do what they already want to do. So much of the technology is designed around completing unpleasant tasks that it's difficult to drive adoption.

I see that in home care. We find that adult children tell their parents "Dad, you need help so I'm sending someone to the house," Dad feels understandably defensive. But if Dad sees the kids as allies in staying out of assisted living, then he becomes more open to home care.

Interesting that Steve Jobs yesterday announced a new laptop (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/21/technology/21apple.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=...) and he presented as "What would happen if an iPad and a Macbook hooked up?" Maybe we should be asking "What Would Steve Do?" in the design of health care tech.

Jim Reynolds, CEO
Caring Companion Connections

As a geriatric care manager, I use technology to make it easier to do things that already make a difference. For example: posting pictures of mom on our care blog so all the long distance caregivers can see that she's doing fine and having fun. But no person wants to be shuffled off into the care of a machine.

Aging in place can be made possible by technology and we should take advantage of each new tool that works for that aim -- while we are loving our parents and clients as people!