Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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Five Virtual Reality technology offerings for older adults in 2019

In 2017, it was clear that virtual reality technology had evolved beyond the point of experiments and was having a number of limited introductions into the world of older adults, including senior living environments (Rendever) as well as pain mitigation (FirstHand). Virtual reality has made its way into the 'future of healthcare delivery' consulting, as firms like Care Innovations and Deloitte publish their how-to white papers.  For 2019, here are five VR offerings that specifically note benefits for older adults. The content is drawn from the firms’ websites and/or articles about them:

Older adult finances and future senior housing options are out of sync    

Rant on. A sad tale - reading the lament about the numbers of seniors who will not be able to afford assisted living in 10 years. The report is from NIC – the National Investment Center that provides research to the senior living industry. The upshot – 54% will be unable to pay the $60,000 average annual cost of assisted living (make that $93,000 in Washington DC), even if they sell their home. If one member of a couple is still living in the home, the number rises to 81%.  According to the study, 60% of the population aged 75+ will have mobility, cognitive impairment or chronic conditions that would characterize them as good candidates for assisted living services and settings – but will not have the savings to enable them to move in.

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Ten technologies that can help with fall detection in 2019

The more things change…Who would have thought that fall detection would be added to a hearing aid?  Or that Apple would produce a watch with built-in fall detection, automatically activated for the 65+? A decade ago, before our very first Market Overview, Halo Monitoring launched a wearable fall detection chest strap, realizing the press-the-button PERS devices might not be enough to keep older adults safe – what if they weren’t wearing it?  That dilemma, of course, has helped drive some innovation in the medical alert industry, estimated at $3 billion annual revenue. In fact, MobileHelp, one of the first mobile PERS devices, acquired Halo Monitoring in 2012 – a good move for both, especially since by 2012, it was clear that fall detection by itself was not yet a market category hit.

Five Offerings from the 2019 What’s Next Boomer Business Summit

Today’s What’s Next Boomer Business Summit is recognized as key for entrepreneurs.  For the past 16 years, Mary Furlong and Associates have presented the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit – reflecting ideas and trends about what really is next for the older adult market segments, encompassing, according to AARP, a mind-boggling $7.6 trillion economy. These five companies presented at What’s Next this week in New Orleans today -- Loro was one of  the audience choice winners, along with Intuition Robotics.  Both will head to AARP’s grand pitch finale in the fall.  Information is from the websites of the companies:

Five FinTech Offerings for Older Adults

FinTech – are these tools for seniors?  Some trendy terminology transformations in recent years, for example Voice First and IoT, refer to tech that is relatively new or recently revived.  FinTech, a concatenation of Financial Technology, may be similar.  The category has been generally described as software "designed to be a threat to, challenge, and eventually usurp entrenched traditional financial services providers with the purpose of being more nimble and serving an underserved segment, or providing faster, better service." The next quote sounds a bit ageist, if likely true: "As for consumers, as with most technology, the younger you are the more likely it will be that you are aware of and can accurately describe what FinTech is." Looking at a list of ‘top’ FinTech companies, one might laugh at a company called Robinhood. Don't laugh, though. Charmingly named, Robinhood, which offers free stock trades, is worth $5.6 billion and has more accounts today than eTrade.    

Hearing aid pricing and weak insurance – older adults lose out

You may have seen that rechargeable hearing aid commercial.   What was most striking about the commercial to a hearing industry outsider is the upfront commentary on what sounded like the predatory price of hearing aids – providers “charge whatever they can get.”   Several interesting aspects to that commercial – but the most interesting was that comment.  Who is ‘they’, how much can they ‘get’, and is there insurance that pays for them?  This is in an era where hearing aids have evolved to incorporate embedded AI, fall detection, direct connections for phone calls, and numerous other features and functions.

Policy action on aging and technology – let's expect results

Should we expect change from aging-related tech policy initiatives? The answer is yes. Many are chosen, ideas are circulated from a long list of participants -- good ideas are collected and then the initiative is disbanded.  Maybe it is because the government changes a year later, but the net result is that recommendations appear, but measurements of status or success may not.  A good example from the past 3 years: the PCAST report, summarized in an ASA publication by David Lindeman: 'Independence, Technology, and Connection in Older Age."  A prior report recommending change in the hearing technology industry may have contributed to or encouraged the sale of PSAPs and the introduction in 2018 sale of over-the-counter hearing aids – and may have encouraged additional categories of hearing aids and the growth of interest in 'hearables.’  So to the degree that there is a connection, that’s a good outcome.

Highlighting Eight Technologies from the 2019 Market Overview

The new trend – tech/services for older adults, not just tech.  When the 2009 Market Overview was completed a decade ago, there were gadgets galore, most introduced with maximum enthusiasm and a shoestring of cash.  Today, perhaps due to pending boomer bulge, innovators and their funders may be having a somewhat easier time, at least in some market categories – health, home care, transportation come to mind.  The other apparent trend is the enthusiasm of partners (health care, senior living, home care) to try out new tech-enabled services that target a problem or opportunity that may have existed a decade ago, but is truly apparent today. Finally, the pace of tech improvement is notable – lower cost and improved utility of on body (or in-room) sensors, predictive analytics, and device integration – with smartphones, health systems, and broader solution sets.  Here are eight of the 33 new offerings from the 2019 Market Overview (material from the vendor/news sites) that deserve a closer look – future posts will highlight others:

It’s time for cameras – nursing homes, assisted living, and home care

Where the baby (or elderly family member) may be.  The WSJ investigation of Care.com has only added a level of urgency about the risky business of finding and placing caregivers in homes. Consider the Care.com CEO’s egregious assertion that "Care.com is a marketplace platform, like Indeed or LinkedIn."  Really, finding someone to watch your baby or your aging father is analogous to finding a worker to fill a job opening in your IT department or seeking a manager to fill out your org chart? And having nasty problems with convicted criminals taking on caregiving roles, with deaths occurring in multiple states, but never aggregated into a nationwide picture of a horror show, until research into incidents was done by a Stanford MBA student? Read that link, please.

Ideas from White House's Technology to Support Aging Adults

Technology and aging R&D – who knew about this task force?  Maybe you were also surprised to see this government report posted last week -- Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population.  Of course the aging of the baby boomers (oldest are age 73) is on the minds of lots of businesses and government groups, for various reasons.  Some see a market opportunity in services (home care, home health care, home remodeling).  Some see product sale growth of items (like DME equipment) for an aging population.  Some see housing opportunities or changes to make age-friendlier communities, and some see looming health costs associated with the 50 million individuals now aged 65+. It was a surprise, though, to see this White House report last week, and even more of a surprise to read what’s in it.

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