Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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Laurie Orlov's blog

Loneliness and social isolation – focus is there, solutions are emerging

Heightened focus on social isolation has resulted in more research, greater concern.  Since the initial correlation between loneliness, social isolation and poor health outcomes, new reports have emerged to try and understand why people are lonely and what can be done to mitigate it. AARP, which has been researching the subject since 2010, released new survey results in 2018 confirming the same percentage – 35 percent of adults age 45+ are lonely – but with a growing number of older adults in the population, this represents an additional five million adults based on census data and asks them to assess their health. Today, Aging in Place Technology Watch and GreatCall have published a new white paper about initiatives to fight social isolation -- a few of the points are excerpted here:

Four tech and aging blog posts from August, 2019

The last gasp of August and Labor Day's hurricane Dorian is behind us.  Note how a devastating Hurricane Dorian already has become a past tense Wikipedia entry (!). Now we must contemplate the fall season of tradeshows and events, rev up anticipation for impending technology announcements, consider that technology anti-trust investigations are launching in multiple states. Meanwhile, the older adult technology market is still comprised of four main categories, into which the new entrants and inventions, including wearables, sensors, AI, and predictive analytics, will fit. The research report, Voice, Health, and Wellbeing 2020 has now launched and interviews are underway. Interest has grown in the use of technology to mitigate social isolation – more on that topic later this week, and the US population aged 65+ passed 52 million in 2018. What to make of all this? Here are the blog posts from August for consideration:

Reinventing old age? Some MIT tech assertions are simplistic

MIT Technology Review’s "Old Age is Over" is thought provoking.  Or in the case of the technology section – "Old Age is Made Up," written by Joe Coughlin, head of the MIT Age Lab, the content is just plain provoking. We agree that old age is made up – but in this article, that assertion is underpinned with generalizations that are just, well, also made up. And it shows a lack of understanding about who benefits from technologies that exist in their current form, or that some of those have been upgraded well beyond his generalizations.  Consider:

The fall tech/aging circuit -- events for your calendar

Out and about in the fall. Especially for startups, going to events can reveal contacts that you may need or initiatives that you did not know even existed. Over the next few months, there are a number of events around the country worth attending if schedules permit and interest areas match. Useful, besides sessions themselves, are exhibit areas where vendors offer new and existing solutions for the target audiences of the attendees.  For those who do not attend, check the exhibit hall online after the event if the organizers make that feature available.  Here are five upcoming events to consider – the information provided is from the websites of the organizers:

A reminder -- moving beyond pilots

Search for the word ‘pilot’ on this siteThat is an interesting historical search – pages and pages of Start Me Up pilots in tech, programs, initiatives large and small, all linked, no doubt to corresponding media spend and press releases.  Think back on the cycles of tech deployment.  Remember the Alpha test, when the product barely worked at all.  After those bugs were uncovered by testers who had scripts designed for successful outcomes, it was time for the Beta test – where selected prospective users are identified, put the offering through its paces, under an assumption that the pilot will be converted to permanent deployment. 

For older adults, consider that transitions are going to take longer

The baby boomer generation’s later years will be unprecedented.   Each time the population aged 65+ is counted, it’s a bigger number. That onslaught, now at 52 million, bears repeating.  The boomers, turning 65 at a rate of 10,000 a day, are pushing and prodding assumptions, deadlines, and pundit predictions. As they do so, they will force industries to change offerings – and drive considerable change in technology that underpins their lives. Consider signals from today's older adults that will only become more pronounced as the boomers move past today's upper age of 73. Today's emerging trends are showing that:

Wearables for health and wellbeing

How do wearables contribute to health and wellbeing of older adults? Did something happen recently propelling sales up 51% that pushed consumers out the door to buy a wearable, like a fitness band or a smartwatch? Was it the coolness of the Apple Watch? Was it fear of ailments that worsen with lack of exercise?Or to put the question another way, what is it that these devices do that can help maintain or improve health, noting that 32% of baby boomers today get no exercise whatsoever, according to the CDC. However more than 50% are striving for 30 minutes per day and want feedback about how they're doing. Today’s wearables have functions that are relevant because they:

Eight Intriguing Offerings from the 2019 Voice Summit

The Voice Summit, like Voice First itself, is still in its early years.  The second annual event was last week – and you would think incorrectly that at least one writer from a national news media outlet would have written about it by now, especially with 5000 attendees, sponsorships from Amazon and Google, 150 exhibitors, and numerous awards.  One of those which went to UnaliWear for Best IoT Device, a firm we have long tracked in the aging tech market, but given the rise of smart watches, the market transcends that segment. Another (healthcare award went to Suki, a voice notes offering for doctors that "has demonstrated up to 70% reduction in time spent entering notes." 

Voice, Health, and Well-being – Launching a New Report for 2020

It’s a given -- Voice First will be even more pervasive in 2020. The rapid growth of the market for voice-enabled technologies has been a phenomenon within the past two years that can understand spoken requests and commands, answer questions, and even offer scheduled alerts.  Industry firms like Gartner expect that the combination of natural language processing, AI, and speech recognition are driving significant growth in adoption of voice technology across multiple dimensions. Speech recognition, for example, will penetrate 80% of mobile devices by 2020.   Some describe this trend of developing software for voice-enabled device user interfaces as Voice First.

Design for all – what we wanted and what we got

Here’s a test. Can you look at a list, for example, of technologies that vendor websites claim are aimed at older adults and their caregivers -- and substitute younger beneficiaries or health care recipients?  Do designers who develop applications, devices, and websites that appear to target older adults do that exercise of substitution as they proceed from concept to pilot to delivered offering? Was that what was meant in the concept ‘design for all’ in this prescient report ‘Connected Living for Social Aging’ sponsored by AARP in 2011?  Per the report’s definition of ‘Design for all’: User experiences that appeal to all age groups, persisting across versions and devices 

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