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Service example: Icontrol Networks Inc., which helps set up smart homes for clients.

Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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The PERS industry must do a better job of serving seniors

These are tech transition times for everyone – including seniors and their devices.  In case you didn’t see it, the Pew numbers about smartphone use are out – 27% of the 65+ have smartphones, up from 19% last year. Given the date of that data (from last fall), let’s just assume that this number is actually lower than today's reality.  So why should a PERS reseller or manufacturer care?  First because carriers don’t want to sell feature/clamshell phones any more. They make it difficult to even find them. They are selling smartphones to people who don’t want or use all of the features they have, but they’re buying them anyway because that is what they’re being sold.  In retrospect, Philips Lifeline might have seen the near term PERS future – and it could be a smartphone – and thus an app. And thus -- why have more than one device? And why not pair a tiny pendant or clip to a smartphone? Or make a watch?

Smartphone usage by older adults is up -- why?

Times change, so do phones. One year ago according to the latest from Pew, 18% of the 65+ had a smartphone – today, 27% have them. Why? Well, for one thing, when a phone breaks, smartphones are easy to find in the store as directed by a rep and online, while ‘basic’ phones (Verizon has 6 unique basic phones) are buried under pre-paid plans. AT&T's two unique brands are very difficult to find, with a handful of non-contract Go Phones – found online after wading through a gazillion smartphone choices. Also, 41% of people aged 65-69 are smartphone owners, perhaps side effects of working longer, greater longevity, families with pics, videos, and chats that must be seen NOW. But still, more than 70% of the 41 million 65+ still do not have smartphones. This likely isn’t because of the cost of the plans (43% of smartphone owners pay between $50 and $100) – only 10% of the 65+ are statistically classified as living in poverty.

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Five new technologies from the 2015 Boomer Business Summit and ASA

In Chicago it was all about boomers and seniors. Last week Aging in America framed several days in Chicago of multiple other related events about and for professionals in caregiving, boomers and seniors. The market-facing event that always attracts multiple executives from organizations like AARP, United Healthcare, Ziegler, Linkage, and many startups was the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit (led by Mary Furlong and now in its 12th year).  Here are five technologies new and/or not previously noted from ASA and What's Next -- all information is from the companies' websites or press releases:

The Aging-Disability Information Disconnect

Aging in New York.  You may know about the World Health Organization’s Age Friendly Cities initiative, announced in 2007.  And perhaps you know all about Age-Friendly New York, launched in 2009 as a result of the WHO. Lots of folks like to say how age-friendly NYC is – which I have always thought was odd, if not downright laughable – having battled across streets in NYC with a wide range of pedestrian walk times, deep puddles masking ramp cut-outs, and a subway system map that favors insider knowledge. Senior Planet in NYC has some more info on what makes a city age-friendly:  “New York has an amazing public transportation system going for it. Even though it’s not perfect and could be improved upon, we know that aging people use subways and buses regularly.”

Five (pretty smart) watches – acknowledging that seniors exist

Should smart watches target and serve seniors? Erik Wicklund observed in mHealth News that the smartwatch hype about Apple’s rock-the-world has mesmerized the media. He mentions Microsoft Band and Pebble. Really from a hype-opmeter perspective, that was gracious, but those products already shipping are not generally thought of as ‘MAGICAL.’  Do seniors need a Smartwatch? Does anyone need all the smarts being invented?  Let’s just call that a rhetorical question for now. Note these five smart watches for seniors, in alphabetical order, information from websites or reviews. These are available now or planned to be released soon:

Services for aging in place – not provided, not coordinated, not enough

What you can’t see is what you get.  Rant on. You would think by now that there would be a traveling provider of just about everything anyone might need. You can order much of your supplies in your home from the Amazon of all stuff, uh, actually, that IS Amazon.com. These days – you probably know that doctors are making housecalls. Even podiatrists and dentists (did you know this?) will travel to assisted living facilities. Should people with dementia have annual eye exams? (Yes.) What about eye exams inside memory care units for non-verbal 90-year-olds? And what about the boxes of unclaimed eyeglasses by the nurses’ station? Who do they belong to? How can you tell? And how does a person with dementia verify that the current pair of glasses is inadequate? By rubbing their eyes and taking them off?

The doctor and staff are remotely controlled – literally

Crises drive health innovation. The presumed potential and much-publicized looming shortage of doctors is worrisome – or at least their lopsided geographic distribution is a concern. Or there are not enough medical schools to train new doctors. Or doctors are tired of being doctors.  Or is it the problem of keeping down the cost of actually seeing a doctor or a nurse practitioner? Is it that population health risks drive the need for improved chronic disease management?  Is it that there are or may soon be so many new patients? Or is the problem one of wasting the time of so many human staff in a hospital doing back-breaking and/or mundane tasks?

Aging in What Place – Oversold concept or the refuge of denial?

The Washington Post article about aging in place was, uh, provocative.  It provoked me, anyway. The concept of aging in place has been oversold, says Professor Stephen Golant, author of a new book called less provocatively Aging in the Right Place. The Post encapsulation included a few gems from his book, noting that seniors who prefer to age in place have 'residential inertia' --  and paraphrasing their thinking as 'I’d rather rot in my own home.'  The premise that the concept was oversold to the public, however, makes a nice headline, almost sounding like a marketing campaign -- but that simply is not what has happened in the recent past. What else was going on?

Technology and older adults, new studies, but no news

The more studies emerge, the less news there is.  Rant on. You probably have read it in university study after university study. You probably read those milestone surveys from AARP, Healthy@Home in 2008 and Healthy@Home 2.0 in 2011.  Maybe you read the Linkage Study from 2012. All of those studies report the same thing in one way or the other: Seniors would like to benefit from technology to help them manage their health and stay longer in their own homes.  They listen to news and echo the buzzwords, they worry about costs. But do interest and willingness make a thriving market?  However, you will be reassured that large consulting firms and banker studies agree:

For seniors stranded by geography, improve service and technology

The census highlights difficulty for family caregivers and the 80+.  Last week we posted an analysis of US Census data revealing those locations in the US with low Caregiver Support Ratios (CSR) – in other words, seniors aged 80+ stranded with limited care availability. CSR (discussed in this landmark AARP report) represents the population aged 45-64 who could (though they may not be) able to help seniors aged 80+ and includes both family and professional caregivers.  The AARP report indicated a current nationwide average of 7 people available to help care for 1 person aged 80+.  The report warned about those future years when baby boomers turn 80 and the ratio drops to 4:1 and lower. However, further analysis reveals a current potential problem in locations such as:

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