The Longevity

3 Ways the Tech Revolution is Gaining Traction with Seniors and Caregivers

"Aging-in-place technology is helping to improve the aging experience for seniors and family caregivers," say Sally Abrahms, in a new piece written for Kiplinger's Retirement Report.

Whether already in use or still being tested, aging-in-place technology is improving the aging experience for seniors and family caregivers. Part of the reason: the development of artificial intelligence, or AI, and "big data." With AI, devices can react like humans after assessing a situation and learning someone's habits. Wearable gadgets—think Fitbit on steroids—can collect and analyze health data, while medical mini-machines monitor chronic conditions and customize treatment.

"Technology is a game-changer, improving older adults' independence, engagement and health and reducing their social isolation," says David Lindeman, director of the Center for Technology and Aging at the University of California, Berkeley. "Technologies we haven't even thought of today will be on the market in the next few years."

Adoption rates among caregivers are still relatively low, but there are several signs indicating we are nearing a tipping point when all that will change.

In a 2015 AARP survey, fewer than 10% of family caregivers said they use, or have used, technology for caregiving, but 71% said they were interested.

In the coming years, aging tech is likely to follow the pattern of smartphones, which gained traction in people's lives relatively quickly. Stand-alone devices are getting smaller, and apps are increasingly available for smartphones and tablets. Plus, aging technology is getting faster, cheaper and easier to use.

Abrahms breaks down the tech advances for seniors and caregivers into three main trends.

Virtual Reality

Although it began as a teen gaming phenomenon, virtual reality, or VR, is maturing into a technology for older adults. While still in its infancy, VR for seniors is gaining fans among physicians, long-term-care staff, researchers, physical therapists and family members.

For older adults with mobility issues or cabin fever, VR breaks up day-to-day monotony and loneliness, letting seniors "travel"—sky diving or swimming with whales, anyone?—without leaving home.

But VR offers more than just a good time. It's being studied as a way to reduce physical pain, opioid use, anxiety, stress and social isolation, and to improve mood.

Companies that get a special shout out from Abrahms for targeting this VR market for seniors include: RendeverAloha VRSamsung Electronics America

Social Robots

Although Amazon Echo's virtual assistant Alexa clearly leads the smart home pack, Google, Apple are Android have also come out with their own versions and are angling for market share. And those are just the big names. Startups are making their play as well.

These devices are multiplying. A 2016 report from market research company Tractica predicts that 100 million consumer robots will ship between 2015 and 2020—including bots that vacuum and mow the lawn.

Robots are not limited to stationary personal assistants, however. They can be like a pet, or provide a vital medical purpose like an exoskelton.

Some startups that Abrahms notes are paying attention to the specific need of the senior market include:

Virtual Assistants: Jibo and ELLI Q

Robotic pets: Front Porch and Hasbro's Joy for All Companion Pets

Rehabilitative / mobility robots: ReWalk Robotics

Digital Health Tech

Digital health technology is on the verge of exploding and the senior market is no exception to this, despite the conventional wisdom that this demographic is tech-resistant. This category is, as our regular readers know, a regular focus of ours at The Longevity Network. It also encompasses a staggering array of products and services.

"Connected" health technology is a godsend for people who want to grow old in their homes and retain their independence. According to an industry report by MarketResearch.com, the market for connected smart sensors is expected to reach $117 billion by 2020. Health tech lets users get help in an emergency with mobile medic alert–like personal emergency response systems [PERS]; track health and habits via wearable devices that gather biometric cardiac, respiratory, sleep and activity data; and monitor chronic conditions. It also lets patients speak with doctors remotely in real time (known as telemedicine), partake in virtual rehab, anticipate falls and manage medication.

Through GPS, sensors, chips, cameras, voice activation, cellular connectivity and smartphone monitoring apps, technology provides a way to share information and offers peace of mind to family caregivers and loved ones.

Some notable startups in a few of these different digital health for senior sub-categories include:

Health monitoring tech: AliveCor

Mental health and wellbeing:Posit's Brain HQ, Rosetta Stone's Fit BrainsGrandCare and Independa

Medication Management: Medminder, Reminder Rosie, e-PillPillPack and Proteus Digital Health

Smart contact lenses: NovartisMedella Health

FDA Commissioner Announces Pilot for Expediting Approval of Digital Health Products

Just a few weeks into his role as the US Food and Drug (FDA) Commissioner, Scott Gottlieb has announced that providing clear guidance on digital health regulation--and expediting approval for low-risk digital health products and services--is a priority for the agency. (Read his original letter on FDA's blog).

[Late last week], Gottlieb...announced an upcoming pilot program that would create a third-party certification program under which lower-risk digital health products could be marketed without FDA premarket review and higher-risk products could be marketed with a streamlined FDA review.

The pilot, part of a new approach to regulating digital health tools, would help to certify, according to Gottlieb, whether a company "consistently and reliably engages in high quality software design and testing (validation) and ongoing maintenance of its software products. Employing a unique pre-certification program for software as a medical device (SaMD) could reduce the time and cost of market entry for digital health technologies."

This effort to provide clearer guidelines and expedited processes for digital health products is all part of FDA's implementation of the 21st Century CURES Act that was passed in December at the tail end of the Obama Administration. The Cures Act, passed with an overwhelming majority in both the House and the Senate, aims to "boost funding for medical research, ease the development and approval of experimental treatments and reform federal policy on mental health care," according to a Washington Post article at the time.

"...FDA will provide new guidance on other technologies that, although not addressed in the 21st Century Cures Act, present low enough risks that FDA does not intend to subject them to certain pre-market regulatory requirements," Gottlieb wrote in FDA’s Voice Blog.

FDA also will provide guidance clarifying its stance on products that contain multiple software functions and which currently fall outside FDA regulations.

The push into digital health comes as Bakul Patel, ‎associate center director for digital health at FDA, recently told conference attendees that guidance related to software as a medical device, and a new dedicated unit to digital health are coming to FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). 

(See our coverage of FDA's new digital health unit here).

Gottleib also touted the role of a universal method for collecting post-market data on digital health products and using that data in turn to expedite new or evolving product functions.

"For example, product developers could leverage real-world data gathered through the National Evaluation System for health Technology (NEST) to expedite market entry and subsequent expansion of indications more efficiently ... The Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC), a 501(c)(3) public-private partnership, is serving as an independent coordinating center that operates NEST. In the coming weeks, MDIC will announce the establishment of a Governing Committee for the NEST Coordinating Center comprised of stakeholder representatives of the ecosystem, such as patients, health care professionals, health care organizations, payers, industry, and government," Gottlieb wrote.

NEST’s fully operational system is expected to come by the end of 2019.

New App Curatio Looks to be the Tinder of Social Support for the Ill

Curatio is not setting out to help manage chronic illness or coordinate care. But it is looking to improve patient outcomes by combatting the social isolation that often comes with the diagnosis of a chronic or even terminal condition.

The social app company first launched through a startup competition in 2013 and revamped in past weeks to serve 10 different health communities. The app acts like an online dating app to connect you with people who have similar health experiences, down to exactly which symptoms they're experiencing. Then, anyone you connect with becomes part of your network to create a news feed that's like a HIPAA-compliant version of Facebook. 

Since health information is involved, privacy is key. Anything you share only goes to people you've approved to see it. And you can't be totally anonymous, but you don't have to use your real identity. 

There's also an AI concierge to answer questions about health information and a section for personal disease management and health tracking. Curatio also licenses its technology to other health providers and communities for their own social tools. 

The platform can cover a wide variety of conditions, and even has a section for caregivers.

Current groups include menopause, traumatic brain injury, heart disease, the blood disease Thalassemia, Crohn's disease and colitis, Type 1 diabetes, and a community for caregivers. 

Shirley Weir founded the Facebook group Menopause Chicks, which transferred their community over to Curatio. 

"If somebody comes to my community [on Facebook] and says, 'I'm losing hair,' I can give them information on experts or books," Weir said. "It's different to say, 'Talk to these four women who also experienced hair loss.'"

Ganzert-Brown declined to provider user metrics, but said Curatio users are now in 31 countries. 

Looking for the Next Hot Innovation in Senior Living Tech? Check out…Milwaukee

In 2015, far from Silicon Valley, downtown Milwaukee became home to the Direct Supply Innovation Center, a large, neo-Gothic building (pictured above) housing an incubator for “cutting-edge senior living technologies”.

Furnished with a vintage scoreboard from the Brewers’ old County Stadium—and a bar with working beer tap—the space is Milwaukee-proud while exuding Silicon Valley cool. This is the setting where 28 startups currently are incubating technology, like “virtual field trips,” that could help define the future of senior living.

Innovation Center Managing Director Tom Paprocki and Direct Supply Executive Creative Director Tom Hansen recently spoke with Senior Housing News about how the center works and what they see for the future of senior living tech, including how providers can avoid “pilot purgatory,” and why the last two years have been a turning point for the industry.

Here is an abridged version of the Q&A:

Senior Housing News: Why was the Innovation Center created?

Tom Paprocki: It’s really hard to change this industry, hard to bring innovation and actually have it effectively implemented, and since we do touch as many buildings as we do, and work with as many operators as we do, and have a reputation that we’re not just here for a dollar today, I think there was an opportunity to become more actively involved as an intermediary, where we help test and effectively bring some of this tech to customers where it can do some good.

Did you hear that, entrepreneurs? This incubator comes with a built-in go to market strategy.

SHN: How are you finding the startups that are working out of the center?

TP: We used to have to hunt. Now they find us. A question in any business plan is, how are you going to get this to market, and entrepreneurs ask around and hear, you should talk to Direct Supply …. It’s also very strange how networks work. I find it fascinating. A week and a half ago, I had the producer of The Deadliest Catch in here working with us on something for VR (virtual reality). Everybody is connected.

SHN: How do you decide what new technologies to work with, which ones have the greatest potential to make a difference for your senior living customers?

TP: There are four buckets. Does it help the senior living provider make more money? Is it either going to drive occupancy or improve revenue per bed through bolt-on services? Will it lower the cost of delivering health care or lower the cost of operating the physical plant? Does it improve access either through the ability to reach seniors within some given radius of your building or improve rural health, or does it demonstrably improve outcomes?

SHN: What are some of the ways you support these startups?

TP: Most entrepreneurs in this space had a parent go through something or a grandparent go through something, and they find out how crazy it is, and they say, well, I’m going to fix that. They don’t understand how reimbursement works, they don’t understand how regulation works, so we provide a lot of expertise around that.

SHN: Do you invest in them directly?

TP: No. We facilitate investments. I’m just about to finish an A-round for a company that’s about a $3.5 million raise. It’s not our money, but I do a ton of calls with potential investors.

Again, entrepreneurs, take note: a large player in the industry is making investor calls on your behalf.

SHN: Would you invest at some point down the line? 

TP: Here’s the challenge. Part of the reason I think we’ve been successful as a company is that we’ve always been impartial. We sell to 95% of the communities in the country, and we never say, “Hey, you need to buy this product or that one.”…If we have an equity position in a startup, we do have to face the very real issue of optics. In the end, we’re an employee-owned company that always has its customers’ best interests at heart. That having been said, the best products and solutions of the future will be increasingly complex and holistic, and we want to play an active role in testing and making sure that the best solutions win. That’s because our customers simply don’t have the time or resources to make sense of the tidal wave of options. If we can invest and do that in a way where we feel like we’re still being honest, then, yes, we would do it.

…Even now, I think a great deal of what we’re working on is a bit much for some people. To slap investment on top of that might lead to cardiac arrest, so we’ll ease into that over time. For now, we still help entrepreneurs considerably on the funding side of the equation by working closely with other investors. What we really offer is access and unmatched industry expertise, and those are things that are critical both to inventors and investors.

SHN: How are you defining success?

TP: At the end of the day, we’re an employee-owned, mission-driven company. We still need to make money, but we have a number of metrics. Some are financial and some are more about how you actually move the needle on getting some of this stuff to the finish line, because so many things stall out, and we want to get them through and be the partner of choice with what we see as the best innovators out there in senior care.

SHN: How much are you investing into the Innovation Center in the coming years, is there a number? 

TP: Not really. It’s well into the seven figures.

SHN: Is there enough talent in Milwaukee to be the hub of senior care?

TP: I’ll be super honest. No. At least not yet. But there doesn’t have to be, because out of the 28 startups we work with, only six, soon to be seven, are here. The rest are all over the world. One of them is moving to Milwaukee from Europe next month, and honestly it’s probably at least partially for the beer and the cheese. I believe there’s actually a lot of talent here, and we’re also very close to Chicago. But this is going to take an effort that’s far bigger than any location, whether it’s San Francisco or Boston or wherever. Do I think we can play a key role in driving a lot of this? Absolutely.

The Longevity Network, for one, looks forward to seeing what comes out of this neo-gothic Innovation Center in the heart of middle America.

Brain Tracking Device Company Raises $1.5M, Bringing Total Funding to $4.5M

Recent AARP Innovation@50+ LivePitch Finalist, BrainCheck, has just secured an additional $1.5 million in a round led by True Wealth Ventures, “a start-up venture capital fund for women with ideas to change the world. Founded by Sara Brand and Kerry Rupp, the fund focuses on women-led companies in the consumer health and sustainability sectors”.

BrainCheck is a mobile brain health tracking solution, and this investment brings the total seed funding to $4.5 million since the company was founded in 2015.

This most recent round of funding will support BrainCheck as the company expands global sales and delivery across its multi-million dollar cognitive health pipeline.

The company established itself with athletic teams seeking to monitor traumatic brain injuries, and is seeking to adapt its proprietary technology to the needs of the aging population.

BrainCheck is the result of 20 years of research conducted at the Eagleman Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine and is one of the only clinically or at-home accessible cognitive health monitoring applications on the market...

“This additional funding enables us to accelerate our growth, expand our channels, and deliver on our promise of democratizing brain health,” says Dr. Yael Katz, Cofounder and CEO of BrainCheck. “Whether the concern is a head injury, memory loss, or cognitive impairment, we’re scaling our ability to deliver rapid and reliable cognitive health monitoring for families, caregivers, and clinicians to positively affect change and improve outcomes.”

BrainCheck is among a small group of women-led digital health companies finding success in raising venture capital.

Of the digital health companies funded in 2016, only 9% have a woman CEO. Accounting for all venture capital, only 2% of venture dollars go to women-led startups and 17% to those with a woman on the leadership team.

Alternatively, the lack of women investors in venture capital can also result in many women’s health products and technologies being overlooked as market opportunities. True Wealth Ventures believes there are clear advantages for companies with women on the management team in designing products for, selling to, and servicing women’s healthcare needs. With more women-led venture capital firms and women leaders targeting healthcare, previously unaddressed opportunities and patient needs have a greater opportunity to be solved.

BrainCheck has also championed the project of achieving more gender equity in the research done on brain injury and dementia.

Of the estimated 5.5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, two-thirds of them are women. Additionally, two-thirds of dementia caregivers are women.

Maria Carrillo, chief science officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, has called on researchers to address the existing gaps in our understanding of increased dementia risk in women.

“The accumulation of women impacted by cognitive health conditions, either directly or as primary caretakers, lends a clear advantage to women healthcare leaders to better serve the needs of today’s female patients,” says Kerry Rupp, True Wealth Ventures’ General Partner. “In the United States, women make over 80% of healthcare decisions for their families. Using BrainCheck to monitor their cognitive health, women and their families are more prepared to understand and track what is happening in their brain and act on that information.”

The Longevity Network’s Guide To Pitching Digital Health & Caregiving Investors

Entrepreneurs are compelling—captivating even—because of their passion, their willingness to take risks, and their backstory of how they came to be so passionate and willing to take risks. So everything you’ve read about 1) making your pitch aspirational; 2) being creative in capturing “the problem” you’re trying to solve and 3) adding a personal story about why you care about this problem—those are all good tips. You want to convey the entrepreneurial persona when you have those few minutes of an investor’s time.

However, the aura is not usually enough, in particular, for investors experienced in the health tech and caregiving space for the 50+ market. This sector is uncommonly complex. To name just a few reasons: we have both public and private payers, enormous variety in providers, convoluted regulations dictating the behavior of payers and providers and a whole slew of shifting dynamics among aging but capable older adults and their paid and unpaid caregivers (the latter of which often bring geographical distance and complicated family dynamics into the picture).

So what else do you need to make sure you convey in a successful pitch? Here's a curated list pulled from real feedback investors gave entrepreneurs after hearing their pitches.

THE BASICS

Even if you’ve successfully conveyed the entrepreneurial aura, your potential investor can still be left wondering about the basics: who is the user and who is the buyer? These fundamentals of your business plan should not be left to clarify during the Q&A, so when practicing your pitch, make sure you clearly convey who benefits and who pays.

THE DETAILS

Time is of the essence when developing your pitch, so the details of the business plan cannot always be included, but make sure you are fully conversant in those details should any questions come up afterwards. For example, here are a few questions coaches asked during AARP’s recent Innovation@50+ LivePitch event in Mountain View, CA.

- What does it cost for consumers now and what will it look like when you add b2b? What problem are b2b customers most interested in solving for?

- How do you provide value back to the payers?

- How many units do you need to sell to be profitable

- What is the lifetime value of a customer?

- What if your user varies their behavior, e.g., doesn’t take their meds at home one day?

- Tell me more about the data integration with your app.

CUSTOMER ACQUISITION & SCALING UP

If you haven’t yet heard of CAC, now is the time to learn about it because every investor worth their salt will be asking. Cost of (Customer) Acquisition is important for every startup but particularly for startups whose product is software and / or if your target customer is a payer or provider because those sales cycles are notoriously long.

If you aren’t tracking CAC yet, start now and come to any future pitch armed with data.

Here are some versions of the way you may be asked this question:

- How does acquisition happen?

- How do people find you?

- What data do you have on the cost of acquisition—i.e., growth cost versus cost of maintenance?

- How do you integrate into these health systems specifically, i.e., who do you target and how do you locate the decision makers?

Closely related to acquisition cost questions are questions about the costs involved in scaling up? You will want to be conversant how hiring, training, and marketing play into your business.

You may hear, for example:

- Would you need to build a fairly sizable marketing engine to scale?

- Have you calculated how large a sales team you would need to hit target customer numbers?

- What percentage of your scaling up operation is human-driven and what percentage is based on marketing campaigns?

- Do you have any organic referrals happening yet or are you generating all your own leads?

TEAM

This is a brief lesson: investors know that execution of the business plan is one of the top 3 or 4 factors in the success of startup. Being the impassioned, visionary founder is compelling, but don’t forget to highlight the domain expertise, technical abilities or marketing savvy of your fellow team members. Any previous success with a startup venture is particularly good to highlight.

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS

Having a plan in place for building strategic partnerships may be what separates the unicorns (or even reasonable success stories) from the zombies doomed by an unforgivingly high CAC. Every digital health or caregiving tech startup faces an uphill battle, and investors know it. The space is inefficient and the market is enormous—which is to say, ripe for disruption—but breaking in is still tough and many a startup with a great idea and a talented team has run out of cash before achieving that market traction crucial to securing Series A or even sufficient seed funding.

But don’t show up with a vague reference to how you will soon begin developing those strategic partnerships. Have a concrete list in mind of who they might be and, importantly, what it would mean to be “partners”.  Would they be:

- Distribution channels?

- A marketing platform?

- Willing to pay for kind of data you will be collecting or producing as a by-product?

PILOTS

Pilots for digital health and health IT products have become very popular in recent years. Brookdale Senior Living Solutions, one of the largest operators of senior care facilities in the country, has even developed an Entrepreneur-in-Residence program. (See our in-depth exclusive of the program here).

It’s a great idea to highlight any past or current pilots during a pitch, but because they have become so prevalent, make sure you are prepared to provide plenty of detail so it conveys your skillful execution.

Questions you may hear from investors:

- What have been your biggest learnings from consumer-facing pilot?

- What was the number 1 request you received from your customer during your pilot?

And crucially,

- Is there anything in place to roll this pilot into a paying contract automatically, if say, a certain benchmark is achieved?

Investors will love to hear that you have negotiated that conversion to paying customer ahead of time, because they have already seen too many startups die a slow cycle of “death by pilot”.

DIFFERENTIATION FROM COMPETITORS

This key indicator should arguably be at the top, included under “the basics”. Any smart investor will want to know as much as possible about the competitive landscape, and it may be up to you to educate them on it, depending on how niche your product or service is.

Again, this is not a topic to leave for the Q&A—it should be defined and then reinforced during your pitch.

This is particularly true if you are attempting to break into an already crowded field. As one judge from LivePitch told a contestant: “be stone cold on your differentiator and your creativity, because there are a LOT of these on the market”.

Here are a few ways to frame it:

- How do you differentiate from competitors?

- What competitor scares you the most?

- Do you have anything proprietary—patents or trademarks—that would secure your market differentiation?

Pitching has become its own art form, so the competition is stiff. The better prepared you can be shows not just that you value the time and expertise of the investor but also, that you understand your business model from top to bottom. And that—reinforces the entrepreneurial mystique.  

Report: Digital Disruption in Healthcare is $8.7 Trillion Global Juggernaut

This month, Business Insider released a teaser of some of the top findings from its new report on digital disruption in healthcare. Its first finding? This juggernaut is now impossible to stop.

Whether patients and their doctors are ready or not, though, digital disruption in health care will only accelerate in the years ahead.

The scope of the report is comprehensive.

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we analyze digital disruption in health care, looking at clinical operations and the role of electronic medical records. We identify the expanded scope of medical care and how patients will use health devices in their everyday lives, as well as survey the possible impediments to the digitization of health care in regulation, workflow resistance, and privacy concerns.

Here are some highlights from BI Intelligence’s report:

  • Digital is already disrupting health care in a number of sectors; electronic health record use is climbing and will near saturation as third parties figure out new and better ways to link and comb through that data.
  • Companies are developing all sorts of tools and equipment that doctors and nurses will use to gain new and greater insight into their patients, from connected scales to smart beds, and even augmented reality (AR) glasses.
  • There are clear hurdles to disruptive digital technology in health care, including regulation, staff buy-in, and privacy concerns. However, these barriers are starting to fall as the benefits of connected devices grow more apparent. 

The full BI Intelligence report promises to:

  • Explain the role of digital technology in medicine, and how it is and will continue to disrupt health care.
  • Provide an overview of disruption in clinical care, the health records space, and care in everyday life.
  • Analyze how the growth of digital health technologies will save time and reduce costs for the health care sector.

The full report can be Purchased & Downloaded or you can learn more about subscribing for an all-access pass to BI Intelligence.

New Brunswick Launches Canada’s First Innovation Hub to Support Tech Solutions for Aging

The Canadian province of New Brunswick recently launched the country's first innovation hub focused on tech solutions for the aging.

The New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF), in collaboration with the AGE–WELL Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE), is launching Advancing Policies and Practices in Technology and Aging (APPTA), an innovation hub dedicated to building tech that supports healthy aging.

AGE-WELL NCE said the APPTA hub, which officially opened on May 16 in Fredericton, will focus mainly on developing technologies and solutions for policy, program, and service challenges in the field of technology and aging. The hub is meant to allow Canadians to benefit from emerging technologies that foster independent living and improve the quality of life for aging adults.

The goal is to help entrepreneurs get to market with their products and services designed to support healthy aging.

Lisa Harris, New Brunswick’s minister of seniors and long-term care [said], “We are delighted to be the host province for a hub that will be a national resource for policymakers, researchers, clinicians, and others working to implement novel technologies that will improve the health and wellbeing of older Canadians and their caregivers.”

The APPTA hub will help entrepreneurs take their ideas to market by connecting them to end users, policymakers, and service providers. AGE-WELL NCE said it will also bring training opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from the field of technology and aging. AGE-WELL and NBHRF will jointly fund the salaries of four individuals annually.

“This hub will promote knowledge-sharing and effective transfer of needed technologies right across Canada," [said] Bruno Battistini, president, CEO, and scientific director of NBHRF and a co-sponsor of the hub.

Forbes Speculates on How People 50+ Will Live in the Future

PBS' Next Avenue, a service journalism project dedicated the 50+ consumer, recently turned five, and in honor of that birthday, they decided to look at the future of aging in America--and make some predictions. Contributing writer Shayla Stern's piece--posted by Forbes--focused on elements of "living" for the 50+. Not surprisingly, technology plays a large role in her vision.

The future of the way people 50 and older live and learn will be increasingly more connected and networked — social networks, cloud-based networks and actual real-live human networks.

For this article, we reached out to leaders and creative thinkers in areas covered in our Living & Learning channel to predict and imagine how we will live and learn in five years, 10 years and way, way down the road — the Jetsons prediction, as we've been calling it internally.

The Five Year Prediction: More Pervasive Home Automation

Scott Moody is the CEO and founder of K4Connect, a tech company that serves older adults and people with disabilities through software platforms that integrate devices, systems and applications into a single system that can work together and be managed as one form of application. Moody believes that in five years there will be a more seamless approach to accessing apps and managing household items — something we currently think about as the “Internet of Things” (IoT), or home automation.

“We’ve seen all these new ideas, products and applications coming out, but look: You can’t put 50,000 apps on your device and live a good life,” he said. "A lot of people talk about IoT and home automation, but it hasn’t really been successful.”

This is because the Internet of Things is not simple enough to use now. Companies like Moody's are working to overcome this.

So what does a "more ideal" smart home look like?

In a perfect IoT system, an older person could stand up in the middle of the night and a light would automatically turn on and potentially prevent a fall. Or if the person missed taking a medication, an alert would come over his or her in-house stereo system. Moody's company is working to assure that doorbells, door locks, motion sensors, streaming music, blood pressure monitors and pill reminders, as well as video chat and photo sharing, are automated through a central platform that can be controlled by a user’s smartphone or tablet.

Will this revolution really happen in the next five years?

[It] is “definitely coming,” [Moody] said, “but is it a few years? Is it five? It might be a little bit more” for a majority of older adults to be able to have such systems involved in their homes or retirement communities.

“It has to be an open system — a very open system, in my opinion — and not this monstrosity of individual things to make home automation really work,” Moody added. “New products and new ideas will have to be able to come out without a complete revamp of a whole system.”

However, Moody points out, we may see an important consideration with older adults in 10 years: income-level changes.

The Ten-Year Prediction: Tech That is Truly For an Aging Population

Americans in the next decade likely will retire with far less savings than their parents did. “The fact of the matter is the population we serve is, in fact, going to be very financially challenged in the future,” Moody said. “People today have pensions and insurance programs, but now people are retiring with maybe $25,000 in a 401(k). It’s going to be financially challenging for them.”

Because of this, tech-based systems for living will have to become not only more seamless, but also more affordable.

Will that affordable solution be lots of robots, to handle everything from housecleaning to caregiving? Moody doesn't think so.

[He says] the lack of humanity (and affordability) of robots makes him believe they will be less prevalent than some predict.

Additionally, Moody hopes that technological development will skew to being created with older adults in mind. “All these products are coming out every day and some of them are pretty neat. They’re all being designed for 25-year-olds, not the people we serve," he said. "Then someone slaps a bigger font on it and says they’ve adapted it for 90-year-olds."

More importantly, older adults do not all see themselves as ill, and even if they are, living in a fulfilling way means they want to address more than just their health issues.

In a recent essay posted on Next Avenue, Joseph F. Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab, warned against conflating growing older with health issues, which he said will be an especially important distinction to make for developers and inventors seeking to make innovations in the way we live as we age. "Older people, especially the oldest among us, are more likely to suffer from multiple chronic conditions and require significant care," Coughlin wrote. "But while this may be the story for some older adults, illness and older age are not equivalents. And even elderly patients managing chronic disease want to do things that do not involve their ‘conditions’."

Moody agreed, noting that as a boomer himself, he was especially sensitive to tech innovators treating older people like patients as they consider design.

“Too many people look at you when you turn 65 like you’re a patient and they want to tell you what to do,” he said. “At the end of the day, we all want purpose, and sometimes that purpose is the ability to take some level of care of myself. That whole idea of providing technology so I can live the life I want — that’s what I really want."

The Distant Future...Has Arrived

The piece finished up with a roundup of some more possibilities that may not be so far-fetched as they sound.

The Jetsons, you'll recall, lived in a flying saucer-like apartment building on the tallest stilts you’ve seen, accessible only by space car or jetpack, with a robotic maid and cool contraptions like smartwatches and 3D printers for food that actually exist today.

3D printed houses (that can be finished in 8 hours)

Homes with appliances that can look, speak and teach like humans

‘Smart threads’ that can allow fabric on your furniture to change color instantly and frequently

Homes equipped with virtual reality as a means of helping with dementia or distracting from pain

NY’s Governor Cuomo Launches Country’s First Aging Services Mobile App

With the launch of the Aging Services mobile app, announced on May 9th, the Governor of New York has high hopes for his state as a role model in serving older adults.

[It] is part of the Governor’s overall goal to make New York State the healthiest and the first age-friendly state in the nation, in accordance with the eight Age Friendly/Livable Community Domains outlined by the World Health Organization and AARP. Communities that are designed and designated as age-friendly are communities that promote healthy aging for older adults and individuals of any age.

[The] app [will] connect older adults with valuable resources and services in their communities. The New York State Office for the Aging’s Aging Services app will provide New York's more than 3.7 million older adults with easily accessible material about benefits, programs, and services, including information regarding health and wellness, housing, and transportation options. The app is compatible with both iOS and Android platforms.

A primary aim of the app is to help older adults locate the services already available in their neighborhood.

Using the app’s “Near Me” feature, an older adult or caregiver anywhere in New York can immediately obtain address and contact information for local offices for the aging, senior centers, farmers’ markets, caregiver services, Alzheimer’s Association chapters, and more, within the closest proximity to their exact location. 

The Aging Services app also links users with live information and assistance through NY Connects, the state’s “no wrong door” system for community-based long-term services and supports, which is designed to help older adults and those with disabilities remain healthy and independent. Additionally, the app provides timely news and updates about state and federal programs that directly impact the lives of older New Yorkers and their families.

Governor Cuomo's initiative is timely, given the changing technology habits of older adults and their widespread desire to age-in-place.

Older adults are increasingly using technological tools to connect to news and information, health and wellness resources, and social supports. Almost 75 percent of people over age 50 and almost 45 percent of people over age 65 now own a smartphone, and those numbers continue to grow.

Beth Finkel, AARP NY State Director said, “AARP is proud to partner with Governor Cuomo to make New York the first age friendly state. The launching of this app, specifically designed for older New Yorkers and their families, supports many of the principles of age friendly/livable communities. Today’s older adults are becoming increasingly connected to mobile technology via smartphones and other mobile devices, and this new age-friendly mobile app allows people to more easily link to community resources that help them age independently.”

Tom Kamber, Founder and Executive Director of Older Adults Technology Services, said, “We are experiencing a longevity revolution in this country and the role of technology to assist and support our daily activities is paramount. There is an increasing awareness of healthy living and social engagement among today’s older adults, and technology plays a key role in healthy aging. New York State’s new mobile Aging Services app helps older adults remain healthy, active, and engaged in their communities, which in turn leads to a stronger and smarter New York.”

The Aging Services app was developed by the New York State Office for the Aging in collaboration with the New York State Office of Information Technology Services. To explore more of New York State’s official mobile apps, visit www.ny.gov/mobileapps.