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Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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New tech-enabled home care initiatives emerge – what does it mean?

Last year’s VC investment in the tech-enabled home care segment caught industry attention.  2015 was a banner year of capital infusion for the 2.0 version of the home care industry. As Honor revved up with a $20 million investment, Home Hero raised a $23 million round and launched a software platform and converted workers to W2 employees. CareLinx received a $3 million round in May and then just into the new year, Hometeam upped the ante with a $27 million VC round.  Meanwhile, at the start of 2016, an eye-popping market sizing from AARP/Parks Associates of $279 billion for all things caregiving-related further underlined a perceived business opportunity, including the projection of an additional 1 million jobs in home care.

Barriers to Technology for Successful Aging -- Same Old, Same Old

Technology adoption for successful aging has no deadline.   Much like aging itself, there is no schedule. So no one ever has to complete the job, or as with communication carriers, even begin the job. But well-meaning associations, committees, advocacy groups, and senior-centric organizations are united in encouraging forward motion. And so the task force initiatives, councils and recommendations are funded and catch the eyes of the media – even if the actual transformation cannot always be detected in surveys. And as with identity theft, phishing, and newly invented scams, tech adoption in the older age ranges can appear to be two-steps-forward, one-step-backward.

Chronological age, exercise and wearable fitness tech for older adults

Chronological age has no impact on health and well-being – per this study. Apparently, blood pressure and cholesterol readings aren’t the whole story.  What matters more are sensory function, mental health, mobility and health behaviors. This is according to a summary of an abstract of research at the University of Chicago.  But it re-enforces other research about the correlation between exercise and warding off dementia.  And for those who never got around to exercise but have a fear of falling in their 80s and beyond, exercise like Tai Chi can restore balance in an 85-year-old, building confidence and reduce fall risk and fear of falling.

For older adults, trends that happen in California stay in California

Pew just offered up a trend-hype reality check.  RANT ON. To read the click-thirsty media hype you would think that the 'gig economy,' aka sharing, on-demand, or pick-your-term whatever, was a solution to world hunger -- or at least transportation, pollution and car maintenance costs.  Who would have thought it was powered by old people? Was this aggrandizement of all things 'sharing' based in reality? Per new Pew study, maybe not.  Oh yeah, in Silicon Valley and for its acolytes, the 'idea' has fueled bubble boys Tweeting re-orders of ping-pong tables.  But beyond the California border -- it turns out the sharing economy has not exactly taken the aged 50+ world by storm. Or any of the world, actually.

Five technology Innovations for Older Adults – May, 2016

The more things change in the age-related markets, the more they change.  Even without an age-related event announcement, article, or article series, new startups and initiatives emerge every week that can provide benefit to older adults and those who provide care for them. Some firms want to apply tech from other market categories to the aging market segment. Others are already in the segment and announce a new offering. Categories of these five from May include health, tech support, hydration, transportation, and social connection, Information is derived from the websites of the companies:

Home is where the money goes when it comes to long-term care

Are individuals who need care where they should and can be? You may have noticed last week. There were four articles and press announcements within just a few days – sourced separately that belong together. No insurance or government program is all that transparent or straightforward, but policy and practice variations across states seem to have one victim – the person who needs care.  They ability to obtain that care at home (or in the right setting) depends on the state you live in and what the policy, practices, and costs in that state. Genworth’s newly-updated report is revealing about long-term care costs in multiple settings and categories.

The Future of Tech -- Mismatched with the Logistics of Home Care

Caregiving is hot – but practicality is not.  The letters to the editor in today’s WSJ print edition were on point following Ezekiel Emanuel’s May 3 article about the Independence at Home program. The article described care in the home provided for an 87-year-old diabetic, post-stroke, oxygen dependent woman receiving six hours of daily home care, supposedly more than she would receive in a nursing home. One doctor observed: “What happens at the seventh hour when she needs help in transferring, falls from her wheelchair or when her blood sugars go out of control?” What happens indeed? And the next letter: "The backbone of home care remains 'Low-paid, low-skill home service workers who cook, clean, bathe and help clients around their home.' And the process for overseeing this industry of workers who help the neediest elderly – actually it’s not much of a process at all. And the distinction in the media between private duty non-medical home care, home health care, geriatric care management, or hospice care in the home?  Not much. 

Technology and the Logistics of Home Care

The US faces a shortage of professional in-home care workers.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected both the growing availability of home care jobs and the shortage of people to fill them. Some states will confront daunting shortages within the next few years: Minnesota will need to fill almost 60,000 direct-care and support positions by 2020, particularly as the state shifts funding toward care in the community rather than in nursing facilities.  The problem is worse in Alaska – where many care workers are nearing retirement age themselves.  Over time, as AARP has predicted, the care gap will widen as boomer population ages – and their care needs catch up with them.  And finally, in nursing, the future has arrived. “Between 2006 and 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (2007) projected that registered nurse job growth in the home healthcare sector (39.5%) will be larger than in the hospital sector (21.6%).” 

Caregivers don't really want caregiving technology or platforms

AARP/Catalyst study from 2016 matches results from the past.  Assume you can get past the demographics of the AARP Catalyst study -- which were well-described, but vague about the characteristics of the care recipient.  "More than three-quarters say they are interested in technology that helps them check on or monitor a loved one. Available technologies are in use by only 10% of caregivers. Caregivers say these technologies, while attractive in principle, are too costly and complex, and therefore not worth the investment of time and money."  Haven't we heard this before? Remember Caregiving in the US, 2009, when interest in technology was also 'high'? In the Catalyst study, current use rates were low: 71% said they they were interested in using technology, only 7% of caregivers are already using or have used technology available in the market. Greatest interest noted? Technology for requesting and ordering a prescriptionnrefill/pickup.

Consumer tech firms avoid marketing to older adults

But how can that be, when their products are potentially so useful?  I can hear it now – but older adults love their technology (notwithstanding the 30 million aged 65+ non-owners of smartphones).  Why all these gadgets and gizmos, these tools are so wonderfully helpful! Yes they are – apparently by accident, as determined by the user. It never seems to make it past the marketing department that this utility was intentional.

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