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10 barriers to boosting tech adoption by older adults in 2021

Technology access is a vital sign.  Non-adoption is not an option. Post Covid-19 we have reached a technology dependency level that is worrisome (see remote hacking), problematic for young people (see social media impact), positive/negative impact on depression in older adults. But when viewed in aggregate, lack of access may be worse. Consider categories like smartphones and text messaging, voice assistants, wearables, cameras, computers, tablets, digital health, medication management, home security services, fall detection, fintech, hearables, location tracking, online shopping and more. What? You know older adults who could use a few of those categories, but likely are not. Why not? Perhaps they are worried about barriers, from A to Z:

A new data source to help track technology adoption and interest

It’s a slog searching for data about tech adoption of older adults.  So many years of searching and trying to understand gaps in adoption, less and less usable data. Survey organizations exist that track adoption by age (think Pew Research, Nielsen, AARP) – but the frequency with which they publish surveys about technology has diminished over the years.  Checking out the main page of Pew, for example. See how so many other topics are more click-worthy than their Internet and Technology material.  AARP’s tech surveys are annual – and this year slipped into April. Others like Forrester, Gartner, and Parks Associates survey, but do very little analysis based on age.

Honor buys Home Instead – a shakeup in the home care industry

Honor buys Home Instead: one of the newest acquires one of the oldest.  Honor, a recipient of $255 million in total investment (Series D in October, 2020), has pivoted here and there since its $20 million-fueled launch in 2015, always intent on disrupting the home care industry. For a while, many in the industry were skeptical. They viewed it as a threat – see interviewee comments in 2017’s Tech-Enabled Home Care.  Honor began as a home care company, then a home care tech platform company and buyer of smaller home care companies -- bulking up prior to Friday, when it acquired the largest home care company in both the US and UK– Home Instead.  

Five intriguing new offerings for older adults

Innovation is booming in categories to help older adults.   Perhaps it’s not surprising that innovation focused on older adults is ramping up – mitigating issues of social isolation, wander risk and safety, engagement, caregiving, financial management and many other categories. Not only was last year a bad year for older adult life expectancy at 65, the older adult (65+) population is still growing and a sizable number, particularly women, will live an average of nearly 20 additional years.

AI, Broadband, Privacy and Flip phones – Four blog posts from July 2021

Nobody wants to live in a nursing home. Yeah, yeah. We get it. The NY Times offers up an opinion echoing what Politico writers and all older adults believe -- until the need actually arises. You’ve read those echo chamber opinions (and about the Green House alternatives with 10 residents each) for the past 19 years. The traditional nursing home model of 100+ residents (funded by Medicare for rehab and Medicaid for long term stays) was declared dead in 2009. Still, there are at least 1.4 million seniors who live in traditional nursing homes today. Why? You know why. Older adults with dementia or other high-care health issues, economies of scale for staffing, cost of private pay assisted living, cost of private pay home care, no near-by or any family members. No news there. Changing the subject, here are four blog posts from July 2021:

Online privacy – when did we notice it was gone?

We should not accept that we are the product, always sharable.  From Amazon Sidewalk bandwidth sharing to always listening devices to smart assistants saving us from typing to recommendation engines (“If you liked this…”). The assumption derived from our behavior with new tech innovations? We have bought in – unless we go to ridiculous lengths to avoid having our data and information used (or abused) online. Consider ways in which algorithms still make mistakes that the individual referenced cannot easily correct.

Flip phones make no sense for older adults

Consider AARP’s list of flip and smart phones. AARP just published a puzzling guide article about smartphones targeted to older adults.  Note the article and the commentary that accompanied it – (and don’t get distracted by the paragraph explaining megapixels).  You may be struck by multiple aspects of this article – in addition to the phone makers you haven’t heard of. The IDC VP refers to older adults as senior citizens, for one, the T-Mobile exec lumping older adults into 55+ segment in a sweeping generalization of being ‘value conscious.’   Okay, enough being snippy.

Broadband access for all -- are we there yet?

Broadband penetration among adults in the US – is the job done? According to Parks Associates, 88% of US households have broadband. Do you find that confusing? Startling in the face of all of the state and government initiatives to connect more households? Minimum speed issues possibly going to be revised? What speeds are they talking about? Watch a Netflix movie? Participate in a zoom call? Not exactly. Turns out the current speed definitions “aren’t high enough to do anything.” Not a single area of West Virginia is properly served, according to that June 25, 2021 article. Colorado, Virginia – same complaint. Slow speed access is akin to no-speed access. Moving slowly past the speed issue – gets you to the adoption problem for older adults. What’s that you say? 22 million older adults, or 42% of the 65+ population, lack wireline broadband? Shouldn't that matter?

Almost useful: AI and machine learning in our lives as we age

Like the obsessively observant HAL, today's tech is always learning your behavior.  You mention a concept or product in an e-mail – and are surprised to see that ‘offer’ (displayed or pushed) in your next interaction.  Snoopy software tools like the A-word are persistent with the ‘insights’ gained from perusing your text. I see you have asked about such and so – would you like me to order it?  Snooping on your actions is fundamental for advertising and the revenue, uh, continued market valuations of A-words (oh, yes, absolutely, we protect privacy!).  Plenty of other privacy issues  persist with Twitter, the various G-words (health data too!), and the like.  These products build their value by ‘getting smarter’ all the time about you, but there are multiple well-documented and alarming privacy problems.

From Wearables to Smart Homes -- Four Blog Posts June 2021

June was a short, but pivotal month for aging and health.  Months of research with executives from 27 organizations resulted in the completion of new report, The Future of Wearables and Older Adults 2021.  It was presented on a panel at The What’s Next Longevity Venture Summit in June with 3 of the interviewees, Dr. Hon Pak of Samsung, Jeff Ray of Omron, and Mark Gray of Constant Companion.  Although current adoption is relatively low, the future of wearables has great potential for older adults, particularly in alerting to health issues between visits to the doctor. June was a season for new health-related product announcements from Apple and an oddity of an announcement from Amazon.  Also during June, preliminary research has begun on another, potentially connected, future report topic about Smart Homes and older adults. Here are the four blog posts from June:

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