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Getting Older Adults to Tech Parity in 2021

More programs are emerging to get older adults to tech parity.  Maybe 2020 was the tipping point and 2021 is the year. The first eye-opener was the OATS/Humana report about the 22 million adults 65+ who lack home broadband. Then AARP and OATS joined together to teach tech to older adults. This followed late-year 2020 activity, including the $10 million in funding for tech training company GetSetUp. And note the $18 million of funding for Papa from Comcast Ventures to combat social isolation in older adults and launch tech-enabled health offering called Papa Health. And there are efforts here and there to help seniors get or upgrade computers.

Care options for seniors...tech included

Aging in place – it’s emerged (again) during these Covid-19 times. Déjà vu all over again. But ‘aging in place’ is still a challenge and maybe a pipe dream for seniors in their late 70’s or 80’s.  Consider a few issues for starters:  chronic health conditions, mobility limitations, stairs, snow/ice, driving, dangerous hills for walking, cognitive issues, and social isolation.  You get the idea.  Then there is the cost of 24x7 home care, same as assisted living (which is $67K/year in Massachusetts, for example) or even Genworth’s 44-hours of home care ($53-54K annual).  That may work for the most well-to-do seniors.  But families are still in a position of finding and then managing the care workers, even with agency assistance. So Mom or Dad stays at home as long as feasible and even beyond – and that’s why the home care industry today is booming. And competing for the same workers as senior living firms pay their CNAs

Aging and Health Technology blog posts from January 2021

Time for the Market Overview Technology for Aging 2021. It’s a new year and the baby boomers turn 75. It took the combination of 73 million boomers, a pandemic emergency, and the sheer size of the aging population to transform a 2009 market niche into this 2021 market category worthy of investment-- less about products specifically designed for older adults as it is about the marketing of many existing offerings as useful to them. But this is January, 2021, in the time of Covid-19 and the time of the all-digital Consumer Electronics Show -- this time with at least 70,000 online attendees from around the world and the tech industry -- and so new companies are surfacing with technologies that will generate interest and even excitement during 2021. Learn more.

Older adults and broadband access -- picking up the pace of adoption

What is broadband and why should seniors want it?  The buzz about broadband and older adults has grown louder since the start of the pandemic – which worsened social isolation for so many older adults. A just-released report sponsored by the Humana Foundation and OATS called Aging Connected, made the case that nearly 22 million seniors (age 65+)  lack wireline broadband access at home. Not a surprise -- that follows other reports over the past year or two like Pew (2019), which noted that only 59% of the 53.7 million aged 65+ have home broadband.  This new report has a point of view -- despite surveys that indicate that people use their smartphones (wireless versus "wireline") to access the Internet, truncated screens can be problematic. The report notes difficulty with financial and document management/editing – as well as limitations in using social networking and engagement technology.  Issues have often been noted that act as barriers to accessing services like telehealth for example. In fact, lack of access to a portal for vaccine appointments has recently emerged as a new broadband divide.

More older adult technology offerings from CES 2021

Even online – it was still CES – from the silly to interesting to useful.  How many of these exist? An international conference where inventions from everywhere are welcomed.  Some of these offerings, as always, are odd.  But some, as with yesterday’s CES 2021 blog post, are quite straightforward and obviously useful. Others require a leap of imagination or a good explanation as to why this variant of hearing aid is worth as much as $4000 per ear.  As always with CES, some capabilities are interesting and have future potential – and some are just too cute for more words.  Here are 8 more:

Ten technology offerings for older adults from CES 2021

CES 2021 – roll the press releases and turn on your computer.  A long time ago, one writer published a charmingly-named CES overview of CES 2012 called CES in Pajamas – an entertaining read with links to 2012 videos just to see what flopped, what was canceled (remember  Microsoft Kinect?) and what/who is still around. Laptops were hot (remember the Ultrabook?) Voice First and the Apple Watch had not emerged.  Oh well. Fast forward to 2021. Pajama-like clothing is the only way to consume the content vastness of this entirely online Consumer Electronics Show with 500 exhibits, 70,000 registered attendees, and 3 full days of sessions, many pre-recorded, some live.  Too many press releases and some odd stuff (a rollable Smart phone?)  Here are a few useful to older adults, alphabetical from firm sites:

From the 2021 Market Overview Technology for Aging

It's 2021 and baby boomers turn 75. It took the combination of 71 million boomers, a pandemic emergency, and the sheer size of the aging population to transform a 2009 market niche into this 2021 market category worthy of investment-- less about products specifically designed for older adults as it is about the marketing of many existing offerings as useful to them.  But this is January, 2021, in the time of Covid-19 and the time of the all digital Consumer Electronics Show -- this time with at least 70,000 online attendees from around the world and the tech industry -- and so new companies are surfacing with technologies that will generate interest and even excitement during 2021. The entrants that can help older adults fit into categories like:

Selected tech trends from upcoming 2021 Market Overview

Looking ahead to 2021 -- pre-CES, what trends will persist?  So that's just about enough of 2020 -- a year worth putting behind us, if ever there was one. Much creativity and stopgap solutions were the signs of the Covid-19 times.  There was an awakening about older adults as targets of ageism and victims of social isolation, true. But there was also an awakening to the significance of aging in place, the investment category of older adults, the market power of older adults, including the 65+ population of 54 million. And who knew that the fastest growing subsegment was those aged 80+?  Innovators in 2020 helped mitigate social isolation, enable in-home strength training for seniors, provided the tech mechanics (regardless of infrastructure) to connect older adults to families? All that and more make up the new entrants in the 2021 Market Overview of Technology for Aging.

Five New Technology Offerings for Older Adults

Long ago in a city far, far away, there was CES 2020.  It was filled with tech from wall-to-wall and bus ride to bus ride.  CES 2020 was a January 2020 nightmare of related products sited at opposite ends of convention space that seemed to span miles in one direction, and up elevators to suites in the opposite direction. A competition winner here, a spotlight on hearing there,  health tech herethere a robot,  there a drone – everywhere a bus ride and 170,000 people. Leaving with sore feet and tired brain, vowing never to attend in person again (having said that multiple times over the years).  Who knew that Covid-19 was about to take over the world -- and with it, the world of events?  Soon there will be CES 2021, entirely online -- no smoke-filled hotels, no Bellagio fountain, and no need for comfortable shoes. There should be many to note in January 2021.  Meanwhile, pre-CES, here are five recently surfaced.  All content is drawn from the company websites.

Not just older adults – everyone lost the tech user interface war

Once upon a time, a new technology user interface was just annoying.   It’s almost quaint to look back at what we complained about – though some of the famous user interface disasters are well-described in a Scientific American article – Windows 8, BMW iDrive, TV remotes.  At some point, the user gets mad. The BMW iDrive example prompted some drivers to turn around and bring the car back to the showroom.  Consider the whining from this site in 2012 about smartphones and again in 2013. But a poor UI doesn’t always guarantee poor sales. It’s quaint to read the complaint about the Apple Watch interface, which is quite annoying and 100% dependent on a smartphone app. But it may turn out to be Apple’s most popular product (30 million sold in 2019) and enjoys great popularity in 2020.  Furthermore, its fall detection validated the market transition of caregiving smart watches replacing PERS pendants.

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