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Laurie Orlov's blog

How about health tech use by older Americans?

Older adults today are beneficiaries of widespread tech access. And it really does fulfill the 2011 prediction in the AARP report, Connected Living for Social Aging.  Broad access to online capabilities was imagined by experts when that report was written.  They knew that someday high speed Internet access, widespread use of social networks, online access to food delivery, health appointments, shopping, holding video gatherings with families at holidays – all taken for granted now, but then it was just a dream. The good news is that most older adults take advantage of these and many capabilities today. Internet access today is being delivered out to remote rural areas – and most of the 65+ will soon be connected. Then what is the next quality of life frontier for older adults?  

2011's AARP prediction for older adults: technology to live your best life

An old report, the core concept of Connected Living was excellent and predictive.  Thirteen years ago, AARP sponsored research that posed questions about technology’s future role in connecting older adults with families, resources and each other. With input from 30 industry experts, the research attempted to determine how technology could better serve older adults moving forward. The result was a 2011 report called Connected Living for Social Aging: Designing Technology for All. You won’t find it on AARP’s website – it’s too old.  But it is very interesting, especially given that year's low technology adoption and extremely limited use among older adults compared to today. The report accurately predicted the major role technology would take in their lives as they aged, though experts were not exactly sure how.

Did you miss one? Four Aging and Health Tech Blog Posts from May 2024

The month of May -- and the hostility about AI overflowed.  Given the pace of change in AI technology – both the software and its rate of adoption – it’s curious that recently the Wall Street Journal published an aging survey about what customers don’t use and/or like about chatbots. These observations include the usual: ‘hallucinated’ answers; lack of customer awareness that they are talking to a chatbot (really???); the chatbot is too nosy. Or it asked too many questions; or couldn’t handle two questions. Which would make this article, like much of media coverage of AI, sound negative. Too late, adoption happened anyway. This is a commentary, perhaps, on the nature of news media in general, who either are mirroring the AI skepticism in the public, or more typically promoting it. But clearly with chatbot adoption, the public is paying new attention. Sigh.  Here are the four blog posts from May, 2024:

Yesterday’s news – an old survey critiques chatbots

It’s 2024 -- chatbots, yuck? Given the pace of change in AI technology – both the software and its rate of adoption – it’s curious that recently the Wall Street Journal published an aging survey about what customers don’t use and/or like about chatbots. These observations include the usual: ‘hallucinated’ answers; lack of customer awareness that they are talking to a chatbot (really???); too nosy. Or it asked too many questions; couldn’t handle two questions. Which would make this article, like much of media coverage of AI, sound negative. Too late, adoption happened anyway. This is a commentary, perhaps, on the nature of news media in general, who either are mirroring the AI skepticism in the public, or promoting it. But clearly with chatbot adoption, the public is paying new attention. 

Consider the potential for AI technology in Senior Living

You can read about AI -- it's discussed everywhere.  Searches reveal the many AI possibilities and current uses in healthcare. In fact, a Google search reveals multiple paid webinars you can attend today to learn more. Consultants are seizing the opportunity. You can read about AI’s trust issues in Harvard Business Review. (My favorite issue: ‘unknown unknowns.’) And check out healthcare investment in 2024. Follow the money – it might be in claims processing.  And as for care management, did we mention the opportunity for AI-powered digital experiences?  Some care will be delivered and supported with AI in the resident’s home, especially healthcare.

Five new technologies for older adults – May 2024

As the year progresses, the older adult population gets the innovators' attention. As it should be, given the swelling older adult market, growing visibility with investors, and increasing attention from the federal government. Rock Health break out the 65+ in its surveys of health tech ownership. Surveys show that Americans prefer to age in their own homes, also known as aging in place. Pew Research notes that the Centenarian population will triple in the next 30 years, baby boomers are hitting ‘peak 65’ this year, and in just six years, all 72 million baby boomers will be 65+. Within that context, it will continue to be important to note new innovations that could improve their quality of life, such as:

Predictions from report -- The Tech User Experience Needs an Upgrade

The decline of our tech experience was slow  it was barely noticeable for a while. Then device proliferation in homes – and the corresponding frustration became too obvious to miss. An AARP report notes, "No one prefers badly designed, over-complicated products." Yet that's what we get. Despite preferences, surveys show that today’s user experience for older adults is more problematic than ever. All are confronted with buggy software and frequent bug fix releases, such as a problem on iPhones that an embarrassed Apple redirected software work towards fixing. At the same time, innovation in new categories like Conversational and GenAI, machine learning and prediction have emerged and can help improve experiences if deployed properly. Over the next five years, it is highly likely that:

Did you miss one? Aging and Health Tech blog posts from April 2024

The tech user experience for all ages is mostly depressing.  A few delighters here and there break up a constant struggle to produce the right command, find the right part of the right website, and overcome the insanity of bug-fixing updates after updates.  And that is if you are well-trained and proficient.  Whether it is a phone, a tablet, or a much-needed website, we curse and complain – and then there’s another software update and a new set of complaints. We struggle with appliance and car interfaces, trying to understand the rationale for buttons and screens that are cluttered with too much information. Stay tuned for the May, 2024 report about these user experiences and what can be done to improve them.   The April blogs:

Aging in place -- moving costs money -- and so does staying home

Aging in place -- sounds good, but for many, it won't work.  The optimistic older adulta like their home -- and they tell survey firms that they're going to stay.  We've heard this before.  Ironically, in those days, it may have been a practical idea -- but as older adults age into the years in which they need care, the rising cost of the care they need may outpace their ability to pay, so what then? Family members help out if there are any, if they can, if they're nearby, and if they are willing.  A lot of ifs.  For the rest, we are entering a period in which more creative options will be needed and some old words, like 'roommates' and 'co-housing' will resurface.

Our future tech interactions mandate personalized user experiences

The mindset of ‘get the product out the door’ sets the stage for poor user experience. For market researchers, there are many data-driven ways to gauge consumer preferences today, and tech companies can chose among surveys, interviews, focus groups and customer observation. Product life cycles in newer tech categories are shrinking, with consumers willing to replace devices that still work with newer models, hence the apparent ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ tech cycle. In the future, we will need a new paradigm for tech user experience that can span our multiple interactions, driven by an opt-in profile about preferences and personal characteristics that can better shape interactions.  We will expect that our profile will drive technology access. Today’s fragmented tech experience offers behaviors based on a disconnected set of profiles – a Starbucks profile knows what coffee I like, a Gmail profile knows about my Inbox preferences, and Marriott knows what kind of room or bed is preferred. In the future and with the assistance of conversational AI, the user should be able to override those and specify a profile that spans all tech interactions, acting as a complexity-hiding agent on the user’s behalf.  

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