Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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Aging in Place Technology Watch May 2013 Newsletter

Windows 8 – the interface that needed a ‘Start Me Up’ revision. The emotion that has been unleashed by the launch of Windows 8 is fun to read about – unless you have a new computer pre-installed with it. Then you are in deep trouble – you are dealing with a mysterious user interface designed for a Windows phone that nobody will buy – nor will you – but sadly, you are running it on a computer. You cannot find the Start menu, locate a network printer, find where files are placed -- and that’s actually before you’ve done any work. The lack of a Start menu alone immediately spawned an entire software industry of add-ons! But thankfully, someone tells you about a downloadable START button – and you’ve taken one small step forward – at least until the complainers are silenced with Windows 8.1.

Smart phones – complexity gone wild.  You know that even the engineers see what their feature fanaticism hath wrought when they ship the Samsung Galaxy S4 with ‘Standard Mode’ and ‘Easy Mode.’  Ah, the irony, unintentionally noted in this review: "While it may be a bit of a task for the non-tech-savvy people to get to that feature in the first place, the world becomes a much better place once you do!" So now you know, before you get to the store, that the phone does not default to Easy Mode. In fact, it barely defaults to anything – it has a setting for every occasion, every whim, every mode -- it's a user-configurable paradise of choice. Why, you might ask? Because it is feasible, it shall be so. As feature creep continues -- and smart phones will default to telling your friends where you are, popping you into group chats, pinning and tagging your picture on sites you never visit and didn't know existed -- let us hope for other modes, HIDE ME UNLESS I SAY SO, THE SECRET TO SETTINGS, and SUPER DUPER EASY MODE.

Your rental car user experience – some training required. So you get off the plane and are whisked off to the car rental counter – your record is retrieved and you are shown your car, which is much newer than the one you left at home. You walk around to make sure there are no scratches, say goodbye to the friendly agent.  Now it is time to start the tech-laden car and turn on the radio. Oops. When the Volvo CEO says that cars today are too complicated for the consumer – maybe he’d driven a Ford Escape lately – always take a passenger with you when renting a car if you want to change the volume or the radio station.  Also, let’s remember that sometimes cars are rented in unfamiliar locations – so just getting around is difficult enough. Trust me, drive in silence until you have help or are parked.

Setting up a home web camera is incredibly easy – says Wired. We all know that the home care market is booming, some might say at the expense of the assisted living industry.  But it is no easy task to manage home care delivery as this adult son noted in a Times article: “He once came home to find a caregiver’s handgun, carried for self-defense when working in rough neighborhoods, sitting on a table and easily reachable by his mother.” Under such worrisome circumstances, wouldn’t it make sense to see greater adoption of web cameras in home care (living room or kitchen) used simply as a reminder to workers and a reassurance to family members? Putting aside the objections of care providers for the moment, what if you want to put one in? Well, it is incredibly easy if you already know what you are doing. Hopefully the home to be monitored is already replete with a home network. “After the first 2-3 days of connection hiccups, it ran pretty stable for the next several days and continues to do so now.” Right.

And from other blog posts during May:

When the 911 call may be necessary but not sufficient.  The news about the no-CPR policy in an independent living community in California brought me back.  In the incident reported everywhere, the nurse claimed that the policy in independent living did not include providing CPR – and as a result, the elderly woman died. Years ago when my mother spent some time in an assisted living facility, 911 was invoked nine times within a single year before they ejected her to a nearby nursing home, claiming they could not provide care. Each of her ER visits involved either my sister or me – racing to the ER from work so that we could explain her history – one time we stopped a dose of Bactrim that she was allergic to – another time we interrupted her inaccurate description of her medical history cheerfully being offered to an intern who had not checked her chart and apparently did not know she had dementia.

Does rising cost parallel consumer distaste for long-term care? Perhaps this caught your eye – the NY Times article on escalating long-term care costs noted that the assisted living industry, according to its trade association, ALFA, now has a national resident population of 730,000, that the move-in age is now 87, and that the average time of residence is 2 years. As has been noted several times on this blog, if the move in age is rising, the industry must be continuously marketing its capacity. Tours with those not yet in need must be painful -- the assisted living resident increasingly resembles the nursing home resident of yore.  and at the same time dementia care costs have risen to their current daunting average level. Furthermore, dementia care is the most profitable service -- and fastest growing offering -- in today's assisted living industry.

Center for Tech and Aging Builds a Mobile Health Program.Mobile health (mHealth) technologies hold great promise for helping health care providers deliver high-quality, targeted care to aging Americans with chronic conditions. The Center for Technology and Aging (www.techandaging.org) today launched a comprehensive online mHealth Toolkit that offers key resources to organizations that want to develop a best-in-class mHealth program for chronic disease management.  The mHealth Toolkit contains vetted techniques for using mHealth interventions in many health care settings for individuals with a range of chronic care needs.” Learn more at Center for Technology and Aging.

Thanks for listening -- your comments and corrections are welcome! If you are receiving this through a subscription to the monthly e-mailed newsletter, please sign up on the website, upper left side of the home page of Aging in Place Technology Watch. And check out the other blog posts from the past month.

I look forward to seeing many of you in my travels online and off, perhaps in and around Washington, DC throughout 2013. In addition to current topics, I am also interested in exploring advocacy work in the area of housing, dementia, and caregiving for those aged 75+. If you see ways that I can be of assistance, please let me know.

Best to all,

Laurie