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When AARP speaks, tech firms listen for the art of the deal

When AARP launches a site for caregivers -- insurers and home care services listen. Today AARP launched CareConnection -- a site for family caregivers. Services from Care Connection will be "ranging from in-home care support (via CareLinx and Hometeam), Teladoc-powered telehealth services, meal delivery service from bistroMD, and professional caregiving advice" from AARP's long-time insurance partner, UnitedHealthcare. Perhaps this new site will out-do Care.com, Caring.com, Caregiver Action Network, and all the other 'caregiver' subject matter and referral websites. This new CareConnection is a business within AARP Services, the for-profit subsidiary of AARP – which leads the deals that are a notable part of the nearly $1.5 billion of the organization's revenue.

When AARP speaks about 'age-friendly' – Louisville listens.  A few weeks ago, AARP declared Louisville, KY to be an Age-Friendly City (where the median age is 35). Age friendly? Or friendly to age-related businesses? The Mayor was there "to honor an accreditation that bolsters our commitment to making a multi-generational city the place to work, create and innovate for all ages; that’s all about promoting life-long wellness and aging care." One reason, Louisville intends to create, through its citizen scientists, a Smart City. Another possible reason: Louisville is home to the headquarters for nationwide age-related businesses – including, but not limited to Kindred Health Care (largest provider of post-acute care, aka nursing homes), Signature Health Care (nursing home chain in 11 states), Atria Senior Living (assisted living, 28 states). And last, but in no way least, Humana ($41.3 billion), where Medicare Advantage plans represent the bulk of its revenue.

When AARP seeks to understand caregivers and technology use – tech vendors listen. Today also kicks off National Family Caregiver Month – the media notes this and promotes.  While statistics about family caregivers vary, one thing about family caregivers that AARP notes with certainty, they do not take advantage of technology they want and need. (This is despite survey responders noting that they are 'Likely to Use' technologies (computer, internet, mobile application or device-based tool) if barriers like cost were removed. AARP has done numerous studies over the years about 'willingness to use' technology – to place the current (not-using) in context, read and compare the comprehensive 2008 survey Healthy@Home – and wonder, is there a marketing problem in the tech industry? A usefulness gap with what’s been invented? Or is 'caregiver' a term that should not be associated with the word 'technology' because it is just too vague, and thus will always be measured in surveys of caregivers as being underutilized?

 Is AARP the EF Hutton for the older adult market?  Maybe you remember the ads for EF Hutton from the 70's – "when they talk, people listen." The AARP brand is viewed as the jackpot business alliance for reaching the older adult market, whether in insurance or other categories. For example, in technology, think of AARP-branded discounts for wireless provider Consumer Cellular (now $620 million in revenue) or home security/ PERS supplier ADT (now $3.4 billion in revenue).  Would these companies be doing as well without a presence in AARP's branded portfolio? Think about the lengthy relationship (18 years) and revenue stream of products from the $157 billion United Health Group.  But why not Humana, Aetna or Kaiser? And the flip side, would Apple or Ford keep suppliers for so long without explaining the rationale or seeking alternative bids if other offerings could be superior? Or given today's AARP Services announcement about relationships with new companies, is that what is happening?  Finally, when a survey concludes that tech usage would be higher if barriers to cost were removed -- that is a great opportunity for the entire AARP ecosystem -- help remove those barriers. 

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As an AARP member, I find much of their hype useless.  Some of what they have is helpful, but I do not need such an organization to help me with my travel, my cell phone, etc. etc.  They do not understand my likes and needs.

From Gail Lawley author of It's Your Move

Con...fluence of interest.


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