Wrapping up 2021 – trends to watch plus 10 most-read blog posts

202120year20reviewFor tech and older adults, the year 2021 was pivotal. It was the year of age-tech gaining AARP visibility as AgeTech. It was a year in which hearables moved into the mainstream of hearing assistance and lower cost over-the-counter hearing aids became more likely. It was a year in which wearables for older adults began to make sense – as predicted in 2020, replacing the PERS pendant with a wrist-worn wearable. It was a year in which radar-based fall detection became a wearable alternative within the smart home. Radar, in fact, may join motion sensors, AI, and voice first technologies as no longer separate and disconnected, but instead part of an integrated smart home infrastructure. Imagine the home as a ‘participating caregiver’ with an in-home team of technologies that help enable older adults’ desire to age in place.  Imagine “Family on Demand” as a form of insurance-reimbursed services. Let’s imagine it together — starting next week. 

Ten technology offerings for older adults from CES 2021 CES 2021 – roll the press releases and turn on your computer. A long time ago, one writer published a charmingly-named CES overview of CES 2012 called CES in Pajamas – an entertaining read with links to 2012 videos just to see what flopped, what was canceled (remember Microsoft Kinect?) and what/who is still around. Laptops were hot (remember the Ultrabook?) Voice First and the Apple Watch had not emerged. Oh well. Fast forward to 2021. Pajama-like clothing is the only way to consume the content vastness of this entirely online Consumer Electronics Show with 500 exhibits, 70,000 registered attendees, and 3 full days of sessions, many pre-recorded, some live. Too many press releases and some odd stuff (a rollable Smart phone?). Oh, and check out another ten. Read more. And then read more.

For older adults, the future of wearables is predictive. Diabetes insulin monitoring/dosing patches are in the market. Research initiatives, some grant and university linked, are designing new wearables/bands that can help detect and even predict stroke — nearly 800,000 happen each year, average age is 73.) Cardiac information from a smartwatch wearable is being brought to physicians, though not always predictive of a treatable problem. Blood pressure monitoring is also available now and is a feature in Samsung smartwatches. This feature is already being compared among other smart watches. Motion changes over time or declining or changing gate could suggest a needed modification to a Parkinson’s medication. Fall detection is a straightforward feature of wearables today, but changes in gait are likely to be predictive of a fall or health decline. Integrating fall detection services with 24×7 call centers is increasingly expected and offered. Read more.

Wearables will matter more for hearing health and managing chronic disease. But that will change in the coming years as broad market acceptance drives interest among the 65+ population. Adoption will grow as the price points become more affordable; and most important, as the data from wearables becomes more actionable, informative, and predictive of future change. Within five years, doctors will see the benefit in guiding older adults to their usage. Chronic disease monitoring through wearables will see the most substantial growth. And stigma-free and lower cost hearables will provide customizable sound improvements to a far broader population than current hearing aids. Read more.

Honor buys Home Instead – a shakeup in the home care industry. Honor, a recipient of $255 million in total investment (Series D in October, 2020), has pivoted here and there since its $20 million-fueled launch in 2015, always intent on disrupting the home care industry. For a while, many in the industry were skeptical. They viewed it as a threat – see interviewee comments in 2017’s Tech-Enabled Home Care. Honor began as a home care company, then a home care tech platform company and buyer of smaller home care companies — bulking up prior to Friday, when it acquired the largest home care company in both the US and UK – Home Instead. Read more.

10 barriers to tech adoption by older adults in 2021. Access to technology is a vital sign. Non-adoption is not an option. Post Covid-19 we have reached a technology dependency level that is worrisome (see remote hacking), problematic for young people (see social media impact), positive/negative impact on depression in older adults. But when viewed in aggregate, lack of access may be worse. Consider categories like smartphones and text messaging, voice assistants, wearables, cameras, computers, tablets, digital health, medication management, home security services, fall detection, fintech, hearables, location tracking, online shopping and more. What? You know older adults who could use a few of those categories, but likely are not. Why not? Perhaps they are worried about barriers, listed here from A to Z: Read more.

Big tech (Apple, Amazon, Google) can serve older adults.  Apple gets it that its customers are aging – and have their devices. That was not always the case. Long ago, maybe as early as 2009, a query was placed to the analyst relations team at Apple to find folks to discuss Apple and technology adoption of older adults. The answer was: “Apple does not do aging.” Then in 2010, on behalf of an AARP-sponsored research effort to contact a few of multiple Apple groups already involved one way or the other (Apple Health!), got no response to requests to interview execs that would have been interested based on their roles. That was then. Fast forward to 2021 and the fact that baby boomers have all the money (and many health issues, too). Note Apple Health, Apple Accessibility, fall detection on the watch, detection of gait changes, changes in AirPods that clearly target conversational hearing issues. And that doesn’t count the health-specific features on the watch that will no doubt include blood pressure checks. Read more.

The Future of the Home Care Industry – the time is now. What could have happened in the home care industry didn’t. In 2012, based on interviews with the best and the brightest in and around the home care industry, an idea was born and documented. It was radical – the idea of a network for sharing relevant information across organizational boundaries about a home care recipient with stakeholders, family, health providers. In this vision, the care recipient was at the center of this information sharing across the stages and steps of living independently, senior housing, rehab, hospital, and home. Instead of this vision outlined in The Future of Home Care Technology 2012, we have today’s franchised and fragmented home care industry – regionally focused, achieving the most minimal advances in technology deployment. Read more.

The more tech changes – tech surveys of older adults – a decade apart. Few of the oldest are ever surveyed about tech adoption – least of all using paper. Link-Age Connect has surveyed the oldest about tech use since 2011, with periodic surveys fielded to older adults via their member organizations. In 2011, that represented 122,000 residents drawn from its member communities across 22 states. The member communities in 2011 distributed 5000 paper surveys and got back 1789 completed, a 35% response rate. Many were completed with assistance for people with limited vision or mobility. All were transcribed for analysis and use in the published report, Technology Survey Age 65 to 100, Extending Technology Past the Boomers. In 2011, 71% of the responders were older than aged 75. Read more.

Tech-enabling the future of Villages – is it time?   Beacon Hill Village created a concept out of need. Long ago, the topic of aging in place was born within the pioneer community of the ‘Village’ movement — Beacon Hill Village. Judy Willett led the way 19 years ago in Boston to help neighborhood seniors stay in their homes longer. That’s not a small trick if you consider that Beacon Hill is a neighborhood of steep cobblestone streets, no easy-in subway stop, and — argggh – every year, residents, most in their 70’s at that time — must cope with winter! Today Beacon Hill Village has 400 members who benefit from aggregated services that include “social clubs, weekly exercise classes and lectures, transportation to doctors’ offices and grocery stores, and access to reduced-fee home medical care and home repair services.” Read more.

New report — Beyond DIY — Future of Smart Home and Older Adults. Within five years, predictive, proactive and adaptive smart home solutions that support health and wellbeing, comfort and safety, and engagement and entertainment will emerge to meet the needs of older adults, including subscription-based services that are integrated with wearables. Remote configuration and updates will be standard, and health insurers will be interested in smart home technology as a deterrent to hospitalization. With the addition of predictive analytics and machine learning, the home can become a participating caregiver for the oldest and frailest. What are a few of the trends that will make that feasible? Read the report