A useful White House study released: ‘Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population’

Just released is the 40 page Executive Branch report on technologies with the potential to better support aging in place. Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population was developed by the Task Force on Research and Development for Technology to Support Aging Adults organized by the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The Trump Administration has made finding solutions for an aging population–now over 15 percent of the American population–a research and development (R&D) priority to enhance the functional independence and continued safety, well-being, and health of older Americans, while reducing overall economic costs and the stress on the Nation’s healthcare infrastructure. The report identifies six primary functional areas which are critical to aging adults and which should be addressed by technology:

  1. Key activities of independent living 
  2. Cognition
  3. Communication and social connectivity
  4. Personal mobility
  5. Transportation
  6. Access to healthcare

Added to this are cross-cutting themes across two or more of these functional areas.

Each of these areas are broken down into focus areas with key functional needs. From each need, the study identifies R&D topics for developing solutions. For instance, a key functional need under both independent living and healthcare is oral hygiene, and one solution is  developing systems to support personalized dental regimens.

What is attractive about this study is that it cuts to the chase in identifying the themes and the analysis leading to the R&D–and a great deal here that’s useful for developers and healthcare organizations. Hat tip to Laurie Orlov of Aging In Place Technologies, who this week also released her 2019 Technology Market Overview

 

The Apple Watch, ECG and fall detection–a trend too far?

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/apple-watch-series-4-elektrokardiogram.jpg” thumb_width=”125″ /]Mid-September’s Apple Fans kvelled about the Apple Watch Series 4 debut. Much was made in the health tech press of Apple’s rapid FDA clearance and the symbolism of their further moves into medical devices with the Series 4 addition of a built-in atrial fibrillation-detecting algorithm and an ECG, along with fall detection via the new accelerometer and gyroscope.

This latter feature is significant to our Readers, but judging from Apple’s marketing and the press, hardly an appealing Unique Selling Proposition to the Apple FanBoys’n’Girls who tend to be about 35 or wannabe. The website touts the ECG as a performance feature, a ‘guardian and guru’ topping all the activity, working out, and kickboxing you’re doing. It positions the fall detection and Emergency SOS in the context of safety during or after hard working out or an accident. It then calls 911 (cellular), notifies your emergency contacts, sends your current location, and displays your Medical ID badge on the screen for emergency personnel, which may not endear its users to fire and police departments. 

Laurie Orlov in her latest Age In Place Tech article points out the disconnect between the fall risk population of those aged 70+ and the disabled versus the actual propensity (and fisc) to buy an Apple Gizmo at $400+. PewInternet’s survey found that 46 percent of those over 65 actually own a smartphone, though this Editor believes that 1) much less than 50 percent are Apple and 2) most smartphone features beyond the basic remain a mystery to many. (Where store helpers, children, and grandchildren come in!)

Selling to older adults is obviously not the way that Apple is going, but there may be a subset of ‘young affluent old’ who want to sport an Apple Watch and also cover themselves for their cardiac or fall risk. (Or have children who buy it.) This is likely a sliver of a subset of the mobile PERS market, which is surprisingly small–only 20 percent of the total PERS market. But monitoring centers–doubtful, despite it being lucrative for GreatCall.

Best Buy update: ‘Assured Living’ assuredly up and running. And was this Editor’s in-store experience not typical?

Reader and Opinionator Laurie Orlov wrote this Editor to advise her that Assured Living was most definitely alive and well in Best Buy-land. The Assured Living page presents a variety of services, starting with a personal monitoring service (video) for an older adult that starts with a fairly standard pendant PERS (two way) and also creates an in-home network of motion sensors for doors, windows, and furniture installed by Geek Squad. These sensors send activity to a control panel which tracks activity and wellness patterns (sic!–as we know it’s algorithms and rules in the software). Within about a month, the system will send real-time automated alerts if something is out of the ordinary. The video then promises the usual ‘deeper insights’ into wellness and potential issues with the older person.

What doesn’t sound like QuietCare circa 2006, down to the need for installation, are the Wi-Fi camera in the doorbell and the automated remote door locks, the tie ins with the Mayo Clinic and UnitedHealthcare. 

We both speculated on the motion sensor set as being Lively Home (from GreatCall) –Laurie added possibly Alarm.com’s BeClose, which has supplied Best Buy in the past.

Assured Living is available only in limited markets (not listed) but you can get 10 percent off with AARP! But product packages go up to nearly $189.97 for a one time fee plus $29.99/month, not inclusive of that nifty doorbell camera and remote door locks.

One wonders if the reluctance of older adults to admit they need monitoring and consent to the installation is less than in 2006, when QuietCare’s and ADT’s sales people had difficulty overcoming the reluctance of a person living home on their own to be monitored by their (usually) child. Sometimes a sale would be made, the installer would come, and the installer would be shooed out after second thoughts. The genius of GreatCall was in making technology palatable to this market by assigning it a positive use, such as communicating with friends and direct personal safety, not someone minding her. Right now, the template is 2006 with a tech twist.

Drop in and visit Laurie Orlov on her Website We Like, Aging in Place Technology Watch. (She’s alarmed about chipping people too and frames it as more of a security and a moral issue than this Editor did, who prefers her chips to be chocolate and her cars to be driven by her alone.)

As to this Editor’s ghostly experience buying a TV in store, perhaps I should have invited a Best Buy rep over! Reader, former Marine flyboy, eldercare expert, and full time grandfather John Boden did and got a simple solution to an annoying problem. Read about it in comments on our prior article here.

The REAL acute care: hurricanes, health tech, and what happens when electricity goes out

This afternoon, as this New York-based Editor is observing the light touch of the far bands of Hurricane José’s pass through the area (wind, spotty rain, some coastal flooding and erosion), yet another Category 5 hurricane (Maria) is on track to attack the already-wrecked-from-Irma Puerto Rico and northern Caribbean, thoughts turn to where healthcare technology can help those who need it most–and where the response could be a lot better. (Add one more–the 7.1 magnitude earthquake south of Mexico City)

Laurie Orlov, a Florida resident, has a typically acerbic take on Florida’s evacuation for Irma and those left behind to deal with no electricity, no assistance. Florida has the highest percentage of over-65 residents. Those who could relocated, but this Editor from a poll of her friends there found that they didn’t quite know where to go safely if not out of state, for this storm was predicted first to devastate the east coast, then it changed course late and barreled up the west (Gulf) coast. Its storm surges unexpected produced record flooding in northeastern Florida, well outside the main track. Older people who stayed in shelters or stayed put in homes, senior apartments, 55+ communities, or long-term care were blacked out for days, in sweltering heat. If their facilities didn’t have backup generators and electrical systems that worked, they were unable to charge their phones, use the elevator, recharge electric wheelchairs, or power up oxygen units. Families couldn’t reach them either. Solutions: restore inexpensive phone landlines (which hardwired, mostly work), backup phone batteries, external power sources like old laptops, and backup generators in senior communities (which would not have prevented prevent bad fuses/wiring from frying the AC, as in the nursing home in Hollywood where eight died).  Aging In Place Tech 

It’s another reason why senior communities and housing are supposed to have disaster preparedness/evacuation plans in place. (If you are a family member, it should be included in your community selection checklist and local records should be checked. This Editor recently wrote an article on this subject (PDF) that mentions disaster and incident planning twice. (Disclaimer: the sponsoring company is a marketing client of this Editor.) In nursing homes, they are mandatory–and often not executable or enforced, as this article from Kaiser Health News points out. 

Another solution good for all: purchase 200-400 watt battery packs that recharge with solar panels, AC, and car batteries (AARP anyone?). Campers and tailgaters use these and they range below $500 with the panels. Concerned with high-power lithium-ion batteries and their tendency to go boom? You’ll have to wait, but the US Army Research Laboratory and University of Maryland have developed a flexible, aqueous lithium-ion battery that reaches the 4.0 volt mark desired for household electronics without the explosive risks associated with standard lithium-ion power–a future and safer alternative. Armed With Science

Telemedicine and telehealth are not being fully utilized to their potential in disaster response and recovery, but the efforts are starting. Medical teams are starting to use telehealth and telemedicine as adjunct care. It has already been deployed successfully in Texas during Harvey. Many evacuees were sent to drier Dallas and the Hutchinson arena, where Dallas-based Children’s Health used telemedicine for emergency off-hour coverage. Doctor on Demand and MDLive gave free direct support to those affected in Texas and Louisiana through 8 September, as well as Teladoc, American Well, and HealthTap for a longer period to members and non-members. Where there are large numbers of evacuees concentrated in an area, telemedicine is now deployed on a limited basis. Doctor on Demand releaseSTAT News, MedCityNews 

But what about using affordable mobile health for the thousands who long term will be in rented homes, far away from their local practitioners–and the doctors themselves who’ve been displaced? What will Doctor on Demand and their sister telemedicine companies have available for these displaced people? What about Puerto Rico, USVI, and the Caribbean islands, where first you have to rebuild the cellular network so medical units can be more effective, then for the longer term? (Can Microsoft’s ‘white space’ be part of the solution?)  

One telehealth company, DictumHealth, has a special interest and track record in both pediatric telehealth and global remote deployments where the weather is hot, the situation is acute, and medical help is limited. Dictum sent their ruggedized IDM100 tablet units and peripherals to Aster Volunteers who aid the permanently displaced in three Jordanian refugee camps in collaboration with the UNHCR and also for pediatric care at the San Josecito School in Costa Rica. In speaking with both Amber Bogard and Elizabeth Keate of Dictum, they are actively engaging with medical relief agencies in both the US and the Caribbean. More to come on this.

Health and tech news that’s a snooze–or infuriating

The always acerbic Laurie Orlov has a great article on her Aging in Place Technology Watch that itemizes five news items which discuss the infuriating, the failing, or downright puzzling that affect health and older adults. In the last category, there’s the ongoing US Social Security Administration effort to eliminate paper statements and checks with online and direct deposit only–problematic for many of the oldest adults, disabled and those without reasonable, secure online access–or regular checking accounts. The infuriating is Gmail’s latest ‘upgrade’ to their mobile email that adds three short ‘smart reply’ boxes to the end of nearly every email. Other than sheer laziness and enabling emailing while driving, it’s not needed–and to turn it off, you have to go into your email settings. And for the failing, there’s IBM. There’s the stealth layoff–forcing their estimated 40 percent of remote employees to relocate to brick-and-mortar offices or leave, while they sell remote working software. There’s a falloff in revenue meaning that profits have to be squeezed from a rock. And finally there’s the extraordinarily expensive investment in Watson and Watson Health. This Editor back in February [TTA 3 and 14 Feb] noted the growing misgivings about it, observing that focused AI and simple machine learning are developing quickly and affordably for healthcare diagnostic applications. Watson Health and its massive, slow, and expensive data crunching for healthcare decision support are suitable only for complex diseases and equally massive healthcare organizations–and even they have been displeased, such as MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in February (Forbes). Older adults and technology – the latest news they cannot use

65+ smartphone ownership is up to 42 percent–but slumps with increased age

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/elderly-smartphone.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]A report of progress in smartphone ownership by those over 65 years of age is mixed indeed. There’s progress–ownership is up to 42 percent of the age group, and 64 percent of these smartphone owners are users of the Internet according to Pew Research‘s 2016 study. But mitigating factors to this good news is that ownership is very much a function of income and age. According to the US Census’ American Community Survey 2015, 66 percent of those aged 65+ households with income $70,000+ own smartphones, but that declines to 33 percent in the 75+ age range and 27 percent of those 80+. Perhaps Laurie Orlov exaggerates the cost of smartphones, especially Android–this Editor has never bought an LG phone over $200 and has a miserly data plan, using Wi-Fi most of the time; Verizon has plenty of new older models at lighter prices and other carriers like Consumer Cellular and GreatCall have excellent deals. But what is true is that interest wanes with age–and that phones, especially Apple, still present legibility and usability barriers to those with low vision or hand arthritis. Ms Orlov also notes Pew’s discovery that 65+ users are less likely to secure their phones with lock codes and regularly update their apps. Aging in Place Technology Watch

Technology for Aging in Place, 2017 edition preview

Industry analyst Laurie Orlov previews her annual review of ‘Technology for Aging In Place’ on LinkedIn with six insights into the changes roiling health tech in the US. We’ll start with a favorite point–terminology–and summarize/review each (in bold), not necessarily in order.

“Health Tech” replaces “Digital Health,” begins acknowledging aging. This started well before Brian Dolan’s acknowledgment in Mobihealthnews, as what was ‘digital health’ anyway? This Editor doesn’t relate it to a shift in investment money, more to the 2016 realization by companies and investors that care continuity, meaningful clinician workflow, access to key information, and predictive analytics were a lot more important–and fundable–than trying to figure out how to handle Data Generated by Gadgets.

Niche hardware will fade away – long live software and training. Purpose-built ‘senior tablets’ will likely fade away. The exception will be specialized applications in remote patient monitoring (RPM) for vital signs and in many cases, video, that require adaptation and physical security of standard tablets. These have device connectivity, HIPAA, and FDA (Class I/II) concerns. Other than those, assistive and telehealth apps on tablets, phablets and smartphones with ever-larger screens are enough to manage most needs. An impediment: cost (when will Medicare start assisting with payments for these?), two-year life, dependence on vision, and their occasionally befuddling ways.

Voice-first interfaces will dominate apps and devices. “Instead we will be experimenting with personal assistants or AI-enabled voice first technologies (Siri, Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Cortana) which can act as mini service provider interfaces – find an appointment, a ride, song, a restaurant, a hotel, an airplane seat.” In this Editor’s estimation, a Bridge Too Far for this year, maybe 2018. Considerations are cost, intrusiveness, and accuracy in interpreting voice commands. A strong whiff of the Over-Hyped pervades.

Internet of Things (IoT) replaces sensor-based categories. Sensors are part of IoT, so there’s not much of a distinction here, and this falls into ‘home controls’ which may be out of the box or require custom installation. Adoption again runs into the roadblocks of cost and intrusiveness with older people who may be quite reluctant to take on both. And of course there is the security concern, as many of these devices are insecure, eminently hackable, and has been well documented as such.

Tech-enabled home care pressures traditional homecare providers – or does it? ‘What exactly is tech-enabled care? And what will it be in the future?’ Agreed that there will be a lot of thinking in home care about what $200 million in investment in this area actually means. Is this being driven by compliance, or by uncertainty around what Medicare and state Medicaid will pay for in future?

Robotics and virtual reality will continue — as experiments. Sadly, yes, as widespread adoption means investment, and it’s not there on the senior housing level where there are other issues bubbling, such as real estate and resident safety. There are also liability issues around assistance robotics that have not yet been worked out. Exoskeletons–an assistance method this Editor has wanted to see for several years for older adults and the disabled–seems to be stalled at the functionality/expense/weight level.

Study release TBD

Eric Dishman departs Intel for NIH’s Precision Medicine Initiative Program

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/20160411-eric-dishman-pmi-1.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Late breaking news….Reported in Aging in Place Technology Watch from the Oregonian is that Eric Dishman, one of Oregon’s more famous sons (and certainly a star in health tech), is leaving Intel after 17 years. Currently an Intel Fellow and general manager of the Health and Life Sciences for the Data Center Group (profile), he is joining the National Institutes for Health (NIH) in their Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) Cohort program as a director. According to the Oregonian, Mr Dishman “will lead an effort to study more than 1 million volunteers to study the impact of “precision medicine” – the practice of studying an individual’s specific genetic makeup and lifestyle to produce targeted treatments. It had been a key focus of Dishman’s work at Intel, and he had helped design the study he will now oversee.” Mr Dishman had his own extreme experience with precision medicine to treat his recurrent cancer in 2012, which made him eligible for a life-saving kidney transplant later that year [TTA 27 Feb 14 and 12 Apr 2013]. He had recently been a key part of the PMI Network working group in this ‘audacious’ study as NIH, in announcing his appointment, termed it. His last day at Intel will be 29 April, according to Intel’s data center chief. Replacing him (at least in the organization) on an interim basis will be Steve Agritelley. NIH release, USNews interview

Laurie Orlov (hat tip re this article–Ed.) commented to this Editor that Mr Dishman could be considered the ‘father of Care Innovations‘; certainly he was crucial to the development of the original Intel Health Guide out of Intel’s Digital Health Group, and was prominently in the leadership of the early Louis Burns days of the company. His work during Intel spanned over LeadingAge’s CAST, Ireland’s Technology Research for Independent Living (TRIL) Centre, Everyday Technologies for Alzheimer’s Care (ETAC) and the Oregon Center for Aging & Technology (ORCATECH). Mr Dishman’s work is marked by a singular focus on delivering health into the home, changing aging and hospitals as we know them. Now he will be more focused on genomic medicine and changing disease treatments as we know them.

Your Editors wish him good fortune and hope that his experiences with NIH and in Washington will be fruitful and all that he intends it to be.

Technology for Aging in Place 2016

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/elderly-smartphone.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Laurie Orlov’s updated view of technologies that assist home caregiving/living, and her observations on trends for both boomers and those well over 65, is hot off the (virtual) presses and available here on her website. It is US-market oriented, but the trends explored here will be of interest internationally. The focus in this study is home-based systems for safety, alerts, activity/location tracking (telecare), home care/caregiving tools and what this Editor would call ‘health monitoring light’–med minders and logging apps versus medically-oriented telehealth (vital signs, save for AliveCor) and telemedicine (virtual visits/consults).

Highlights:

  • In communication, internet non-usage among 75+ has declined to 50 percent over the past 15 years.
  • The tablet form factor is losing ground as smartphones get bigger. Older adults and smartphones are beginning to ‘get along’ partly as they grow larger, but also that feature and simple phones are becoming less available.
  • Also losing ground is senior housing–residents are delaying entry to assisted living until they are mid 80s and frailer. Savings and debt in the boomer group is low and high, respectively.
  • Investors are caring more about home care, with large investments ($80 million) in three regional home care worker startups: Honor (San Francisco), Home Hero (Los Angeles), and Hometeam (New York/New Jersey), caregiving apps and chronic care management (CareSync, with an $18 million raise).
  • Dementia care support tools are (finally) developing into its own category.

Surprising conclusions: PERS alerting stays strong, but changes to be mobile-enabled and more cosmetic; a lot of convergence of categories and forms; and the term ‘health tech’ will replace ‘digital health’. Oh my!

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

Health tech innovations are doing little for baby boomers

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/upside-down-duck.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Wonder why the duck is upside down and sinking? Maybe it’s looking for all that transformative tech! Versus The King’s Fund sunny article above is Laurie Orlov in Boomer Health Tech Watch. Her POV is that as of right now, health tech innovations are not moving the needle for obese (39 percent) and chronically diseased US baby boomers. They aren’t downloading health apps and wearing wearables. Workplace wellness programs? Au contraire, they make us feel less well (Harvard Business Review) and anxious that we’re getting spied on by the company. Maybe we realize that All That Data isn’t secure (healthcare being a Hacker’s Holiday Camp), so we’re not playing the game. And the cost of care that the ACA was supposed to level off? Not if you’re a self-insured Boomer struggling to pay an ever-higher monthly premium, or even in a corporate high-deductible plan, paying increased deductibles, restricted networks, ever-higher treatment costs and fighting your insurer at nearly every turn. Add to that safety risks of procedures, mistakes compounded by EHRs [Dr Robert Wachter, TTA 16 April]  and (not mentioned) hospital-acquired infections. No wonder investment has cooled. Health and tech innovations do little for baby boomers

Drone ‘bots’ to help older adults in future

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/08ELDERBOT1-master675.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]A Saturday Robot Fix! Short article in yesterday’s NY Times about development of tiny household drones to fetch medications and do other simple tasks around the house (like cleaning). These ‘Bibiddi Bobbidi Bots’ are under development at the University of Illinois. This Editor will take several to go clean. But do they do laundry? I’d rather take the new iteration of a 4′ Robby the Robot under development in Seattle by an ex-Microsofter who founded Hoaloha Robotics. Practical? Perhaps not, says Laurie Orlov of Age in Place Technology, who’s been up and down a few hype curves. And will it help older people stay connected, even though help around the house is always appreciated? The withering comment on the Jibo robot from a 91 year old at the end of the article does put a damper on it. Still, Robby could make me a dress of sapphires any old time (as did his namesake in Forbidden Planet). As Aging Population Grows, So Do Robotic Health Aides 

Telecare innovator Lively acquired by GreatCall (updated)

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Lively-sensors-600×327.png” thumb_width=”150″ /]GreatCall, which markets the popular Jitterbug simple phones and ancillary safety/security services (5 Star, mPERS) targeted to older adults, has acquired the assets of home activity personal monitoring system Lively. According to GreatCall’s press release, Lively’s technologies will be integrated into GreatCall products. These include a tastefully designed brace of self-installed in-home motion sensors, which made quite a splash when introduced in 2012, and a fairly stylish mPERS watch introduced last year. From the announcement, it’s easy to deduce that Lively was largely inactive despite partnerships led by Care Innovations: the press release on both Lively and GreatCall’s site was issued from GreatCall only and not joint contact; Lively’s last round of funding was in 2013 (only $7.3 million total, another Series A to B casualty) and there are no Lively employees transitioning to GreatCall for the good reason that there are none left (Mobihealthnews). No word on founder Iggy Fanlo’s next plans save a squib on LinkedIn saying that hardware was hard and his next move would likely be in software. With last year’s sale of AFrame Digital (with no further word from the purchaser) and BeClose now Alarm.com Wellness (not a surprise as it was built on an Alarm.com platform), as we close the year it is further confirmation that it is No Country for Small Players in digital health. Photo: Lively.

Update: Tart take from seasoned Aging Tech business observer Laurie Orlov on Lively’s rise and fall, with additional history. Her POV is that as attractive as Lively’s concept was, its business strategy should give pause to the Silicon Valley investor and entrepreneur crowd thinking this is just another kind of direct-to-consumer hardware-service sell, the long payout of any tech in this field and the opposed short time frame of VCs. It’s also not like there haven’t been a few predecessors fallen on the field, either. Aging in place tech firm Lively is out of business – what can we learn?

Does current digital health meet baby boomers needs and wants?

The answer, according to health tech industry analyst Laurie Orlov (Aging in Place Tech Watch, Boomer Health Tech Watch) is…not really. Despite its massive size (76 million in the US), spending power (by 2017, 70 percent of US disposable income), breadth (1946-64) and need (despite living longer, by 2030 37 million will be managing more than one chronic condition), most health apps, especially fitness apps, don’t resonate with boomers despite over 50 percent having smartphones. The reasons are many–they’re complicated, often hard to follow, view, and abandonment across all ages is still high. Even among Fitbit purchasers, abandonment is fully one-half. As income decreases, smartphone access also becomes a cuttable budget item. Much more in this paper published by the California Healthcare Foundation.

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.

‘Rotting In Place’

Laura Mitchell, who was one of the key people behind GrandCare Systems and now is a marketing consultant and healthy aging advocate, has written an interesting article on LinkedIn Pulse, now on her website, springing off an AgingInPlaceTech article by Laurie Orlov.  Like the latter’s article, it commented on the Washington Post profile of Prof. Stephen Golant, whose POV on ‘aging in place’ was mostly that AIP is oversold–that in many cases, it’s ‘rotting in place in their own homes’. It’s a highly provocative topic with equally provocative statements and Ms Mitchell does take him to the woodshed, as does Ms Orlov in a different way. Prof. Galant seems to take a more moderate tone in his book (publicity perhaps?), citing (in the Amazon summary) that “older people often must settle for the least imperfect places to live. They are offered solutions that are poorly implemented or do not respond to the totality of their unmet needs.” a statement with which this Editor finds it difficult to disagree.

This Editor will largely cite her previous LinkedIn comment with a few embellishments/edits: (more…)