Can technology help to bridge the Loneliness Factor?

The Guardian’s impassioned article on how common and harmful loneliness is among older adults led to some reflection by this Editor on how difficult and ‘multi-part’ an approach to help can be, even if you call it ‘The Campaign to End Loneliness’. “Studies have found loneliness can be more harmful than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, increases the risk of premature death by 30% and the chances of developing dementia by 64%. More than one million people aged over 65 are thought to be lonely – around 10-13% of older people.”–statistics from the article and AgeUK’s press release on their recent study, ‘ Promising approaches to reducing loneliness and isolation in later life’.  GPs see a lot of them, and some more for an ‘event of the day’ than actual medical need. Loss of hearing, sight and mobility further isolate the older person, particularly those in rural areas where everyone and everything is at a distance requiring driving, creating dependency among those who can no longer. Even among the middle-aged, loss of hearing reduces engagement in social situations. (And the article does not include the disabled.) It closes with suggestions that councils need to budget for and organize programs to reach out to lonely adults, including carers, and that not one approach can fit all, but emphasizes more personal approaches such as groups and one-on-one support. Hat tip to Malcolm Fisk via Twitter

Is a way to fight the Loneliness Factor located in technology, even remote patient monitoring? That’s been the primary reason for some systems such as GrandCare, but even in RPM, whether hub-based or smartphone/tablet based, the reminders and active clinician monitoring part of chronic care management can and do engage. Older people are using smartphones and tablets–perhaps not as fully as a 40 year old, but they are using Skype, calendaring and social media (Facebook, LinkedIn and news/opinion sites). A big help here, according to Laurie Orlov, would be voice recognition and integration into safety/alarm technologies. This Editor also sees proactive alerting to changes in condition as a still-untapped area.  There’s $279 billion of potential in ‘silvertech’ as estimated by AARP and Parks Associates–it’s a matter of getting young techies/entrepreneurs excited about it, and the Sand Hill funder crowd realizing that yes, it’s sexy too. Long Term Living

67% of 50+ users found activity trackers beneficial: AARP study

The just-published AARP study of 50+ consumers and design of sleep and activity trackers has found that a near-or majority surveyed found activity and sleep trackers useful in maintaining health. 71 percent found they increased awareness of habits; 67 percent found them useful and beneficial. Four user personas emerged: sticklers, achievers, enthusiasts and the ‘why not’-ers. Yet these mostly enthusiastic users experienced difficulties. During the six-week trial, many discontinued use of the trackers due to data inaccuracy, finding and using instructions, perceived device malfunctions, difficulty in syncing, difficulty in putting on the device and comfort in wearing. The seven trackers used by the 92 participants were from Misfit, Spire, Jawbone, Lumo and Withings. Conducted by Georgia Tech Research Institute’s HomeLab with AARP’s Project Catalyst: The Power of We initiative which encourages good product and service design for the 50+ demographic. Coming up: med management tools. iHealthBeat. AARP release. AARP’s Building a Better Tracker research paper

The dilemma of design for older people

Is the best design for older people and the disabled not specifically designed for them, but an adaptation of basic good design? Laurie Orlov in one of her apt Aging In Place Technology Watch articles questions the market viability of all those specially designed products we’ve seen since, say 2008. We recall ‘smart homes’, senior desktop computers, simplified phones and the robot caregivers which never seem to get past the prototype stage [TTA 25 July 14]. Her POV is that in most cases ‘designing for all ages is feasible today’ except for healthcare–durable medical equipment (DME) and healthcare delivery (and,this Editor would add, monitoring). One of her commenters points out that not everything can be designed ‘universally’, linking to this excellent article from Smashing on guidelines for designing tech to be used by those over 50. The section on blue color perception was especially interesting, as blue is healthcare’s #1 color. I would also point out that design which avoids stigma (as in ‘it screams OLD’) and has good aesthetics also wins.

Is AARP admitting that ‘tech designed for seniors’ is not a winning notion, as this May’s Life@50+ National Event in Miami is likely the last national event they sponsor? And it would be interesting to go back to the previous ‘Live Pitches’ to see how they are doing. Ms Orlov profiles this year’s five.

Assistive tech for older adults gets fresh developer interest, funding

Companies and investors are waking up to the potential of technology to assist both older people, wherever they live, and families to keep in touch, live more safely and to compensate for impediments created by physical or cognitive conditions. Ozy, an online news aggregator new to this Editor, notes the $5 trillion annually that boomers and older adults spend in what’s termed the ‘new old-age economy’ (AARP has previously termed it the ‘longevity economy‘) and that there’s money in tech solutions to their problems. Examples: the Lift Labs [TTA 1 Oct 13] stabilizing food utensil that cancels out most active tremors (as in Parkinson’s) while eating; Caremerge which has EHR, care coordination and secure messaging features for the care team in long-term and transitional care, but also connects families with a smartphone app and residents with reminders; GeriJoy [TTA 3 July 14], a tablet that combines an interactive pet avatar/companion with engagement, reminder and education tools for older and cognitively impaired adults.

While we’ve noted many developments along similar lines over the past ten years, interest and financial backing is aligning. (more…)

MediSafe, Frame Health and ‘compliance’ winners in Health 2.0 competition

Compliance ruled at Health 2.0’s Traction: Startup Championship at their annual meeting in Santa Clara, California. Mobile med reminder app MediSafe won the consumer-facing company ‘bakeoff’ and Frame Health, a big data analytics company which uses psychology to predict non-compliance, the provider-facing competition. Both competed in their class against four other companies and were judged by big-money VCs and mentors from ED Ventures, HealthTech Capital, Merck, AARP, Ziegler and others. The action also seems to be moving away from startups, as this competition was for Series A level companies with clients and real business, positioned for next round funding in the $2-12 million range. (more…)

AARP/Intel’s simplified tablet–insulting to 50+?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/gimlet-eye.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Earlier this month, AARP announced its marketing of the RealPad, a simplified 7.85″ tablet. Its positioning is clearly aiming at the less tech-savvy cohort over 50. With much fanfare, AARP is touting its partnership with Intel in this ” intuitive, easy-to-use software interface for RealPad” on Android KitKat 4.4. It will be available at Walmart this fall at $189 (preorder via AARP) and it has the requisite big icons, front and back cameras and free 24/7 customer service. Release.

The Eye Rolls. We know that the AARP bread ‘n’ butter is creating loyalty for their products by catering to those who pay for their association’s services, but a press release headline like this sounds tinny to many of the younger and not-so-young people in this age group:

AARP ANNOUNCES REALPAD, FIRST OF ITS KIND TABLET DESIGNED FOR AMERICANS 50+ APPREHENSIVE ABOUT TECHNOLOGY

Powered by Intel, RealPad to Serve as Digital Gateway to Over 70 Million Americans 50+ (more…)

StartUp Health adds AARP education on 50+ tech

Health tech accelerator StartUp Health is wisely pointing their entrepreneurs towards ‘the jobs to be done’ of the 50+ age group via a new partnership with AARP. AARP is sponsoring the development of educational content for entrepreneurs in the StartUp Health Academy as part of their Innovation@50+ initiative. They are also sponsoring StartUp Health’s quarterly industry research reports as well as trend data and intelligence. This is StartUp Health’s second high level partnership, after their joint program with GE Ventures Healthymagination [TTA 4 April]. StartUp Health/AARP release.

It’s good business and societal benefit sense. Lather, rinse, repeat: The 50+ market will comprise 45 percent of the US population by 2015. Extended thoughts on differentiating the needs of the ‘young old’ versus the 70-80+ group–and how individual older people have different takeups on tech; Stephanie Baum gives the example of her 80 year-old mom who just upgraded her iPhone and downloads apps, but finds it difficult to do online search. What do seniors need? (MedCityNews)

Related: The Oxitone wrist-worn blood oxygen meter is one of the StartUp Health/GE ‘Lucky Thirteen’ and is profiled in this Times of Israel article. [TTA 7 Sept 2012, 24 Feb 2012] Notably it’s one of only two non-US companies in the group–the other is Ireland’s GetHealth.