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Laurie Orlov's blog

The Digital Divide -- Why haven't all older adults crossed it?

A hot topic now – crossing the so-called ‘Digital Divide’.  It’s ironic – the topic has been under discussion forever. Long ago, in a world far, far, away – it was easy for the oldest to say that they don’t see the benefit in technology, Internet access or other devices.  That was pre-pandemic of course. In 2020, the divide looks like a chasm, depending on how it is viewed. What will close it?  What is the missing link? More training?  Discounted devices?  Free Internet?  Grandchildren photos?  Worsening social isolation?  Telehealth visits?  And do we mean ‘Digital Divide’ – or do we really mean Internet Access Divide? Or is it the smartphone ownership divide? The how-do-I-use-this-thing divide? And what does it mean for one's life to be on the wrong side?

Four Technology and Aging Blog Posts from November 2020

November revealed a growing sense of urgency about older adults. What has been the impact on them of the daily onslaught of Covid-19 statistics? What about nine months of ceaseless updates about case counts? Has this produced a permanent fear of contact with others, including families, especially on holidays? Public-private partnerships are forming to bring devices and products to older adults, now isolated for as much as 9 months. Will that help? Tech firms are trying to boost access to the internet and devices – will this become 2021 action priority for non-profits and government? And much more will be different for an older population – the real seniors, aged 75+, perhaps previously unnoticed by media. In fact, older adults have often been ignored by marketers even as boomers have all the money.  Here are four blog posts from November:

Five technologies for older adults November 2020

November – the month for giving thanks -- remotely.  It was a strange Thanksgiving for many – staying (stuck?) in place with Zoom, FaceTime -- and few place settings. Worse, for many older adults, isolation is a worsening health issue that we will hear more about as shutdowns continue and shut-in becomes the virtual norm.  In November, a long report (the third of 2020) called The Future of Remote Care Technology and Older Adults was published, the result of 30 interviews with executives from organizations large and very small. Here are five companies drawn from the report and beyond – all material is from the company websites:

Aging and Health Technology Watch 2020 Research – A Recap

A year that saw little travel but it was a good time to write.   Most would agree that this year was not what we expected.  Instead of continuing with business and event travel into March, HIMSS was canceled at the last minute and converted to a virtual event.  And so it went, for Argentum events and many other summits. And so it remains a virtual world.  So 2020 was a year that produced 5 white papers and three long research reports emerge – normally not feasible with so much here-and-there travel. By comparison, in 2019 one report, the 2019 Market Overview, was published, along with 2 long and 4 short white papers, listed under Research.  Here are the reports – looking forward to 2021!

Consider Amazon’s role in the caregiving and older adult market

It’s already been a big year for new Amazon offerings that could benefit older people.   This month’s most obvious change was the introduction of Amazon Care Hub, an Alexa app that can be used to help monitor potentially isolated older adults.  But they also have done more work on Amazon Hospitality in partnership with K4Connect (which has rolled out 10,000 Alexa devices to senior living communities).  One might well argue that Amazon has and will continue to have a major impact on the quality of life for older adults (assuming senior privacy concerns and technology barriers to adoption are overcome – more on that another time):

Remote Care Technology and Older Adults - Filling in the basics 2020

Technology was essential for many adults stuck at home during the pandemic, providing some social connection, access to online shopping, home delivery services, and requests for transportation. But it also became apparent that some older adults were shut out from these due to limitations in vision, hearing, dexterity, and even dementia.  And for some, technologies were not affordable – median income of a household age 75+ is $34,925. Yet it is also becoming apparent that organizations that serve older adults realize that gaps exist. They are  increasingly motivated and will strive to ramp up efforts to deliver a greater degree of access than the numbers show today. What are the key dimensions that need to be addressed moving forward?

Four technology and aging blog posts from October 2020

October 2020 -- when the fall travel season never started. And the unthinkable has become normal. These days it seems like businesses only congregate in Zoom-like rooms. But despite that, product announcements and innovations appear despite the missing in-person fanfare.  The 30+ research report interviews are complete and the writing begun for "The Future of Remote Care Technology and Older Adults." The goal -- publish in early December in conjunction with the What's Next Longevity Innovation Summit -- normally held in Washington, this year all online. Here are four blog posts from October, including the key themes from the research report: 

Tech-enabled Home Care Redux? Do investors remember 2016?

What’s up with investing in home care and technology?  Some recent announcements offer almost the same frothy level of investment that characterized the 2016 investor spending spree, neatly noted in a 2016 Forbes article. The Forbes list included the $157 million poured into Care.com, unfortunately revealing a shocking lack of company oversight of care workers in 2019.  Home Care Assistance received $100 million in 2016. In fact, 2013-2017 saw the rise, rise, and then fall of Home Hero – which raised $18 million (closing in 2017) and Hometeam’s $40 million in 2016. 

Future of Remote Care Technology and Older Adults 2020 -- Themes Emerge

What is the status and future of remote care technologies? As the research interviews for the 2020 report “Future of Remote Care Technology and Older Adults” wind down, a few themes become apparent. This work began in the summer of 2020 as the Covid-19 lockdown was underway. The pandemic has likely transformed the senior-focused ecosystem. It triggered ingenuity of senior care organizations and vendors; and it energized innovators and prospective investors. Reimbursement of technology was a key policy change in 2020 that fueled adoption and investment in telehealth. That change super-charged growth in telehealth-related companies that had been growing incrementally. And as senior living executives agreed early, from a technology investment standpoint there’s no turning back.

Social isolation of older adults – a problem and an opportunity

Life has been worsening for older adults – in senior living and at home.  Every day there is some new article about the impact of Covid-19 on older adults -- or another study turns up that you missed. Residents in senior living communities are having a tough time, cut off from activities and visits from family.  Isolation has produced an increase in mental health issues, loneliness and depression – and that would be for those who have a good grasp of what is going on – for those in long-term care, for those with dementia, unable to be hugged by family, it is far worse. What’s been going on with older adults in the context of social isolation and loneliness?

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