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For older adults, the future of wearables is predictive

Wearable devices make up an $81.5 billion global market in 2021. According to Gartner’s January 2021 forecast, this was driven by increased consumer interest in tracking their health status during the pandemic (smart watches) and the growth of remote work (purchases and upgrades to headphones and ear-warn devices). According to one insider, 3-5 million Apple watches alone have been purchased by adults age 65+. And AARP’s newest technology adoption report, just published, notes that 20% of the 70+ age range own a wearable.  Also notable, considering that most wearables are still paired with them, smartphone ownership has risen most sharply among the 70+, with 77% of survey responders indicating they own one.

PEW: 25% of seniors age 65+ are not online. That's a problem.

Pew Research just published its periodic survey about Internet use. Let’s assume consensus that growing the percentage of those using the Internet was a social good. Let’s assume that many are now concerned that older adults may have missed vaccine sign-up opportunities without access to the Internet.  Pew’s survey categories included: Age, Rural/Urban, Male-Female, Income, Race, and Education.  The result is pretty much ho-hum – if you look only at the headline – 7% of Americans Don’t use the Internet.  Let’s say that 77% of the American population are adults (using Census data). Translating the Pew number to non-users of the Internet  results in nearly 23 million people.  Not a trivial number.  Too bad there were no correlations between Age, Education, Income with Internet use.  But we can guess what we could find.

Why should people trust technology? 

Do consumers trust technology?  Not so much -- just ask them. This question was asked on a recent Edelman Trust Barometer, responder age was capped at 64.  And the survey showed that the largest drop in trust for a category from 2020-2021 was in technology (summarized here in a single graph) – for some, not trusted. What categories were the most trusted?  Food and beverage, healthcare, transportation, education and consumer packaged goods.  What’s this mean?  According to Edelman: “The tech industry is now being held to account for all manner of societal ills -- from information bankruptcy to job loss, to human rights, to the mass-class divide.

Four Aging and Health Technology Blog Posts from March 2021

March was an unusually innovative age tech month – now let’s get organized.  What did it all mean? Here’s a thought about this market, where the beneficiary of an innovation is an older adult, and the innovation could improve quality of life. A federal agency (or other national entity) could help individuals and organizations find a product that is needed with a product/service registry.  A government agency could start a registry of these products/services – this one with staying power. You might remember AbleData – a product registry of 40,000 mobility aids and assistive technologies. It was conceived in 1982 and  rolled into the responsibility of a federal agency in 1984, now part of the Administration for Community Living.  What happened? Its useful website lasted more than 35 years. Then in 2020 it was abruptly shut down – with no further explanation - a caution for the next age tech registry. Here are the four blog posts from March 2020:

Five interesting and useful technologies for older adults

Events cropped up again in March that help accelerate interest in and ultimately benefit for older adults. One of these was the Longevity Health & Innovation Summit, which featured numerous longevity and technology experts as well as a pitch challenge. Today the CTA Foundation pitch competition is being held in partnership with AARP Innovation Labs. And last week, the CABHI Summit 2021, in which several of these offerings below were presented.  All these events provide a platform for innovation competitions, presentations, collaborations and networking among funders and innovators in the age-related technology market segments. Check above links to see full lists from all three.

Ten tips for launching a product or service in the older adult market

Today or soon you will launch a boomer/senior, home care offering, wearable product or a new service to help seniors or other new market entrants. As your company gets ready to travel into an online event battle with a plethora of pitches, it is time for a quick review of this guidance. Check the list out before your new offering launches First read existing content and research reports on your particular market segment. Then look over this updated checklist that was first published on this website in 2010 and revised each year since. The advice continues to hold true – with updated links and references. If necessary, refine tactics to match the most useful tools for your category:

Hearing aids, the elderly, and listening to music

Hearing aids and music -- why is this so difficult to solve for the elderly?  The pandemic isolated everyone, but it may have been even worse for the hearing-impaired. Consider the oldest -- they are aged 85 or 86, love music and enjoy getting together with others in restaurants. The man loses one of the uninsured hearing aids and has to switch to backups that emit whistles or screeches, and cannot hear accurate sounds from a grand piano. The replacement cost of the single hearing aid is $2195 bundled with audiologist assistance. That pair worked well with his TVlink unit – enabling him to hear the TV at the right volume, and his spouse to listen at the broadcast volume. The older woman is isolated during restaurant lunch time conversation because she can’t sort out who is speaking – she is described as ‘looking lost’.  She also has a piano she won’t play because of hearing aid sound distortion.  Both can easily afford the best hearing aids, service, and guidance available. Both are frustrated at their inability to fully mitigate these issues.

Voice First Technology and Older Adults – Three Years Later

The trumpets sounded loudly at the arrival of Voice First.  The Future of Voice First and Older Adults was published in February of 2018. A re-read shows how excited the 31 interviewees and participants were, offering their vision of the future of this technology and its potential use by older adults. Has the future arrived in the world of seniors, senior housing, home care? Has the future arrived for the technologists who invented Voice First and the broad market of consumers who bought and benefited, from the early days?  Is voice first indistinguishable from magic?  That’s the way it seemed in 2014 to those comments from Witlingo founder, Ahmed Bouzid as he was interviewing for a job at Amazon – after interacting with the newly invented Echo, he wanted to stand up and start applauding.

Four Aging and Health Technology Blog Posts from February 2021

Looking out toward the future – what trends matter most?  The lack of broadband access among older adults is worrisome in these days of online-only vaccine registration.  In years past, getting older adults online was a lower priority for senior advocates, social service agencies or healthcare organizations. News organizations rarely discussed tech adoption among seniors.  And survey frequency about Internet access had dwindled over a decade. Now even the Wall Street Journal tech writer searches ways to get elusive vaccine appointments scheduled for older friends and relatives. The New York Times notes that some older adults don’t have computers.  When the 2022 surveys of broadband access for the 65+ are published, will the numbers be much higher?  New government efforts are underway to offer cheaper broadband -- will older adults participate?  Stay tuned. Here are four blog posts from February 2021:

Tech-enabled home care 2012-2021 -- are we there yet?

The home care market is (still) a booming business opportunity.  Home care of various types now augments and even enhances services that not long ago may have been provided by senior housing. Pre-pandemic forecasts indicate 34% annual job growth from 2019-2029, much faster than average, and demand has no doubt been exacerbated during 2020.  Home care workers are also among the lowest paying and least trained occupations. Frail patients, according to insiders, are increasingly being discharged from hospitals directly to home, bypassing rehab nursing homes. At home, these individuals likely still require assistance with activities of dressing, bathing, medication management, food preparation and household tasks.  And many already at home and in assisted living need the same care.

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