The Longevity

Apple Lags Far Behind Amazon, Google in Smart-home Market


While Apple has been a market leader in smartphone sales for over a decade, they have yet to even offer a voice-controlled device specifically for the home that could compete with Amazon’s Alexa or Alphabet’s Google Home.

Consumer electronics giant Apple (AAPL) is "losing badly" in the nascent smart-home market, despite having arguably the best user experience with its HomeKit technology, Edison Investment Research analyst Richard Windsor said in a note Tuesday.

Apple is a "very distant third" in the smart-home market..., Windsor said. [They have] been rumored to be working on a home appliance that uses its Siri voice-response personal assistant. But so far Siri is mostly an application on Apple's iPhone smartphones.

Siri of course can be voice-activated, but research shows the power of the home devices is that a user can have both hands fully occupied with some other task and still activate it.

"Usage of both Alexa and Google Home show that over 60% of all usage is generated when the user's hands are busy with another task, [said Windsor.]  “This makes the use case of Siri on a device that needs to be removed from the pocket not as easy or as intuitive as Alexa or Google Home."

Still, Apple has made advances that neither of the other two tech giants have achieved.

Apple had done a better job of integrating home devices so users can give a single command when doing things like going to bed, leaving the home or returning home, Windsor said.

"This makes it easy to turn off all the lights, lock up, turn down the heating, and so on with a single button press, which is something that neither of the other two have come close to offering," Windsor said.

But consumer preference for the voice-activated home device may mean they miscalculated market priorities. If Apple is going to enter this burgeoning market, they are going to have a lot of catching up to do.

Amazon's Alexa grabbed 88% of the intelligent home speaker market in the fourth quarter, Strategy Analytics said Tuesday. Alphabet came in second with 10% market share after launching its Google Home speaker in November, the research firm said.

Some 4.2 million intelligent home speakers were shipped worldwide in the fourth quarter, up nearly 600% year over year, Strategy Analytics said.

"Amazon has had a near two-year head start over its rivals and has done an excellent job of building out an ecosystem of compatible devices and services or skills," Strategy Analytics analyst David Watkins said in a statement. "However, Google is hot on Amazon's heels and the search giant should be able to significantly cut Amazon's lead over the coming year thanks to its superior AI platform and well-established technology-licensing model, which has proved successful through its Chromecast built-in program."

Buoy Launches AI-Powered Symptom Checking App

Buoy officially launched in August of 2016 but operated in stealth mode for the past several months, during which it acquired 5,000 users. A battery of tests done during this “stealth” phase found Buoy's diagnosis was right 92 percent of the time, compared to WebMD’s 56 percent, Healthline’s 53 percent and Mayo Clinic’s 38 percent. Armed with these promising numbers, Buoy will now be available to everyone, either online or through an app.

Buoy [is] an AI-powered resource...that sources from over 18,000 clinical papers, covering 5 million patients and spanning 1,700 conditions. Beyond a symptom checker, Buoy starts by asking age, sex, and symptoms, then measures against the proprietary and granular data to decide which questions to ask next. Over about two to three minutes, Buoy’s questions narrow down to get more and more specific before offering individuals a list of possible conditions, along with options for what to do next. 

Co-founder Andrew Le was led to the idea when his father did some online research about some symptoms he was experiencing. He determined it was nothing to be concerned about but then soon fell very ill.

That led Le to take a sabbatical from medical school to work on Buoy. Under the guidance of Harvard’s machine-learning expert Ryan Howard and Dr. Warner Slack, who conducted some of the first experiments between a human and a computer and is considered the “Father of Cybermedicine,” Le and his colleague Eddie Reyes began building the tool.

[But even before his father fell ill, as] a third-year medical student at Harvard Medical School, Le was also seeing the harm, or the unnecessary fear, that resulted from self-diagnosis based on Googling symptoms or even using the common symptom checker platforms available.  

“Most people Google their symptoms, but the information is unreliable,” said Le, who is CEO and cofounder of Buoy. “I was working in the ER as a medical resident, and I saw so many people Googling and essentially guessing from the results, and very often guessing wrong. It turned out that 78 percent of patients could have been taken care of out of the ER, and while that is better safe than sorry, that’s a lot of waste.”

Over the past three years, Le and his colleague Eddie Reyes worked with a team at the Innovation Laboratory at Harvard to develop a digital health tool that would function as a health-specific search engine while also giving patients pointers and compassion along the way.

Le and his colleagues wanted to create Buoy to not only make searching for health information less terrifying, but to ensure people had a tool to make more contextual decisions about their health and improve treatment once they sought it.

But Buoy holds a great deal of potential beyond simply helping individuals make more informed decisions about their personal symptoms.

Along with facilitating that kind of healthcare pathway, Buoy also sees its tool as new way to gather huge amounts of research that could otherwise be missed in traditional studies.

“For us, this is something that is a moonshot. Even thinking about the research possibilities just makes me glow, because as we are able to track people over time, we could be looking at a huge potential prospective study,” said Le.

Collection of data from the 5,000 stealth users of Buoy has already revealed a surprise: people frequently need help with mental health symptoms, too.

“We cover the entire DSM-V, and we saw a lot of people asking Buoy about things like depression and suicidal thoughts. That was very powerful for us and also very heartbreaking, but also inspiring because we saw a real opportunity to help someone who may not be open to seeking help from a real person, but felt comfortable asking Buoy,” said Le.

These promising early results mean Buoy is already well on its way to forming key partnerships. 

[Buoy has plans for] partnerships with health systems and research institutions to organizations with resources for patients and their families. The company is already in the process of formalizing a few deals, including one with Boston hospital system Steward Health.  

“Buoy represents a groundbreaking idea in the emergence of on-demand health care,” Steward Health spokesperson Jeff Hall said in a statement.  “We are excited to be working with Buoy to identify ways in which this innovative technology will be used to benefit Steward Health Care’s existing and future patients, physicians, and frontline caregivers.”

With such strong early results, we look forward to hearing whether Buoy has a strategy for the 50+ market.

Today at SXSW: Workshop on Empathy in Design

The central mission of Longevity Network is to spur innovation in products and services for the 50+ market, with the belief that technology can improve or enable better, healthier living for this growing demographic in everything from aging in place to caregiver quality of life.

A workshop sponsored by Microsoft this afternoon at SXSW addresses a crucial tenet for this kind of innovation: developing empathy for diverse kinds of users.

Humans have been at the center of design practices for a long time. Although product makers and designers have always sought to understand their customers, they often miss an opportunity. By including a diverse set of people in the design process with a range of physical and cognitive abilities, we can start to understand how empathy and diversity fuel innovation. In this participatory session, we will explore important considerations and practical approaches to uncover universal human motivations, identify barriers and exclusion that impact participation, and glean insight from how people adapt.

The workshop promises to be interactive and is part of a larger initiative at Microsoft to encourage this kind of inclusivity in design innovation.

[Participants will] build off one another's experiences and stress test...ideas to evolve our thinking along the way. Come ready to participate and learn how this inclusive design practice can impact your work - even if you're not in the business of making products.

To learn more about Microsoft’s approach to inclusive design visit their webpage on inclusive design here.

This event is part of the Social Good Hub, a creative content venue curated and produced by SXSW Eco. See the full schedule of programming and special events here.

Entrepreneur of the Week: Emma Yang, Timeless

Timeless is a mobile app aimed at improving the lives of those suffering from Alzheimer's, like 13-year-old Emma Yang's grandmother who was her inspiration for designing the app. Timeless is currently a functional prototype but Emma has plans to crowdsource the funds to make it a fully functional app (see last question in the interview).

We spoke with Emma about Timeless and the opportunities she sees in the 50+ market.   

Longevity Network: What does the Timeless app do?

Emma Yang: Timeless is a simple and easy to use mobile app for Alzheimer’s patients to remember events, stay connected and engaged with friends and family, and to recognize people through automatic Artificial Intelligence based facial recognition technology.

LN: Can you tell us about the your platform/services and how it works?

EY: The key features of Timeless are: Updates (a stream of photos with the names and relationship of the people [e.g. Paul, Brother] tagged in the photo), Photos (a photo album where the pictures are grouped by person), and Identify (where a patient can take a picture of a person and the app identifies him/her by name and relationship in real time). The identification and relationship tagging of the persons are powered by Artificial Intelligence based facial recognition technology. The app also has functions for event reminders and assisted calling and texting. These functions help the patients to remember important events such as family or doctor visits, as well as make it easier for the patients to call friends yet avoid repeated callings as they might forget an earlier call.

Timeless helps Alzheimer’s patients remember and recognize family and friends, connect with loved ones, and cherish the timeless moments in life. The application provides a variety of research-backed solutions that address a wide range of problems caused by the disease that affect the day-to-day life of Alzheimer’s patients. Timeless is also designed to be simple and easy-to-use for patients.

LN: What opportunity did you see that you wanted to address with the creation of Timeless?

EY: After doing extensive market research, I found out that none of the apps on the market related to Alzheimer’s disease are targeted for the patients themselves. The available apps only targeted caregivers seeking help or people who want to learn more about the disease. I wanted to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and mobile technology to help Alzheimer’s patients like my Grandma stay connected with friends and family. Hence, I took up the opportunity and developed an app to close this gap.

LN: Who are your primary users? How can/does Timeless benefit the 50+ population?

EY: The primary users of Timeless is the population with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s disease is a serious problem around the world. Alzheimer’s is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that affects 44 million people worldwide. In the US, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. The disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, affecting more than 5 million Americans. Not only does the disease affect the patient, but also caregivers, including family, friends and care professionals. According to research, people with Alzheimer’s experience problems with forgetting appointments or important events, having difficulty remembering and recognizing people, and difficulty with familiar tasks.

With the functions and features mentioned above, Timeless can not only help the patients remember and connect with their loved ones, it also help them in their daily lives.

LN: How did you assemble your team?

EY: I work on Timeless myself as a single person team. I came up with the idea of Timeless myself, and I also created the feature set, and worked on the creation of the User Interface, user workflow, and did the development of the working prototype myself. However, I am very fortunately to be supported by two very kind experts in the field.

I consulted with Dr. Melissa Kramps, a specialist in the Alzheimer's Disease & Memory Disorders Program at the New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center on the functions and features of the app.

On the technical side, I also collaborated with Mr. Cole Calistra, the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) and his team at Kairos, a human analytics technology startup in Miami which developed the AI facial recognition platform which i am leveraging to implement the facial recognition aspect of the app.

LN: How has Timeless differed from what you envisioned it would be (if at all)?

EY: The design and development process of Timeless mostly fall into my expectation. The greatest challenge is testing and adoption of the app by the patients and their family and friends. In order to address this, I am reaching out to relevant organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association to seek assistance to gain access to patients for testing. I am also developing plan to create awareness and encourage adoption through marketing campaigns, and raise awareness through organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association.

LN: What do you wish you had known before developing Timeless?

EY: The challenge of getting access to patients and their family and friends who can provide help in testing and advice on feature set of the application.

The challenge of raising funds for an application which goal is for a social cause, rather than for profit.

LN: What most excites you about the aging and or health technology market?

EY: Mobile is an ubiquitous platform which changes everyone’s life. However, vast majority of the available applications are targeted at the younger user population. Seldom would there be applications that are designed with the need of the elderly in mind, let alone those with illness and purpose is to make their daily life easier. I hope Timeless can change that.

LN: What is your best piece of advice for startups who want to include or target the 50+ market?

EY: Spend the time and effort to thoroughly understand the patient’s need. Conduct research and talk to actual patients and observe their daily life to determine what will be useful for them.

LN: Do you have any other products in development?

EY: Timeless is the only product that I am working on now. I am focusing on taking it from a prototype to a real product. I’m working on further improving the User Interface and User Experience, consulting with my mentor (Mr. Cole Calistra) on implementing the backend infrastructure for the app for cloud based data storage interaction, and also working with Dr. Kramps on arranging for patients to test the app.

LN: Where do you see yourself and Timeless five years from now?

EY: Five years from now, I would like to see Timeless being used by Alzheimer’s patients around the world. I equally hope that by then we will have found a way to cure Alzheimer’s disease and Timeless will pivot to be a tool that help those who are in transition stage between diagnosis and treatment.  Personally I would like to study computer science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning by the time I go to college in 5 years. I am also especially interested in the intersection between health care, biology and computer science and would eventually like to explore and potentially pursue a career in that area.

LN: What health or wellness technology do you hope exists by the time you retire?

EY: From observing the daily lives of my grandparents, I hope that there will be automated robotics or systems which can take care of the elderly’s daily life, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I noticed that getting customized, round the clock help for daily matters is the most challenging area where all elderly persons and their family routinely face.

LN: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

EY: As mentioned earlier, I’m in the process of taking Timeless from a prototype to a real application. I’m planning to raise fund for the development through crowdfunding in a few months. The funds will be used for design improvement, hosting of infrastructure (such as databases) for Timeless, marketing and ongoing maintenance of the app.

I recently created a Timeless Facebook page for the sharing of Alzheimer’s and Dementia related information and innovation, and updates on the development of the app.

It’ll be great if you and any of your readers can “like” the page and share it with your community.

An 8th grader, 13-year-old Emma is passionate about science, computer science, and technology innovation. In 2015, Emma won first place in the US and second place globally in Technovation Challenge, a global technology entrepreneurship competition for girls, out of 400 teams from more than 60 countries. Emma believes that technology can be used to help solve problems and make the world a better place. She is a strong advocate for STEM and would like to encourage all girls to explore their interests in science and technology. In 2016, Emma was named one of New York’s 10 Under 20 Young Innovators to Watch and Crain’s New York’s 20 Under 20 2016

Emma excels academically and is a Davidson Young Scholar, a member of Johns Hopkins University Julian C. Stanley Study of Exceptional Talent (SET), and Wolfram Research’s youngest and first ever middle school mentee of the Wolfram Mentorship Program. Emma was the youngest participant of the White House’s Opportunity Project, representing Wolfram Research in bringing the power of the Wolfram Language to solve problems using Open Data.

Emma  was awarded the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Space Camp Scholarship, Stony Brook International Piano Festival Scholarship, and the Michael Perelstein Memorial Discover Your Passion Scholarship for her outstanding achievement in Music and STEM. Most recently, Emma was selected as one of 500 exceptional students globally to participate in the Junior Academy of the New York Academy of Sciences solving the world’s greatest challenges. Emma is also a member of the school Robotics team who will be participating in the FIRST Robotics Competition.

An enthusiastic coder, Emma’s proficient in MIT AppInventor, HTML/CSS, Java and Swift. Her goal is to develop apps that help solve the world’s challenges. She is working on ConcussionChecker – an app to help detect concussion early and Timeless – an app to help Alzheimer patients live better lives. She plans to publish these apps on the App Store to benefit the community and beyond.

Emma is also a young classical pianist and she has performed at Carnegie Hall twice. Winner of Hong Kong Music Festival, American Protégé International Music Talent Competition, Rondo Young Artist Vanguard Competition, and Crescendo International Music Competition, Emma is an active participant in school and local music events.

Born in Hong Kong and lived there for ten years, Emma comes from a family with diverse background from China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Among her favorite foods are Chinese dumplings, Vietnamese Pho, Hainanese chicken rice, and lasagna. Fluent in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and learning German and French, Emma’s goal is to speak as many languages as possible. In her free time, Emma enjoys coding, reading, biking, and going to movies with Dad.

Emma is an introvert and enjoys being one. Recently, Emma started writing for Quiet Revolution‘s Quiet Diaries, a space for young voices to post their perspectives on life.

7 Deals Announced or Made at HIMSS 2017

MobiHealth News called last week’s HIMSS Annual Conference “the biggest week [of the year] in Health IT” and highlighted some of the deals that made the week particularly big for some companies.  

Samsung - American Well Partnership

Telemedicine provider American Well and Samsung Electronics are collaborating to create a new level of healthcare service in regards to consumer reach, interoperability and accessibility, but they aren’t yet disclosing what that end user experience will look like. While both companies were short on specifics, they described the partnership as one presenting a “tremendous opportunity,” that will leverage Samsung’s leadership position in consumer electronics with American Well’s enterprise telehealth service called the Exchange, which the company launched last year.

Medfusion Acquires NexSched

Patient engagement company Medfusion acquired NexSched, which makes a patient-facing appointment scheduling tool. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Teladoc Expands Partnership with Kinsa

Teladoc became the latest telemedicine company to incorporate connected devices into its offering via an expanded partnership with FDA-cleared connected thermometer company Kinsa. The Teladoc app will automatically detect the Kinsa app on a user’s phone, and guide the user to Kinsa. Users can also import up to 10 days of temperature readings into the Teladoc platform from the Kinsa app. That data goes into the physician's view of the patient's health record.

Imprivata - Connected Technology Solutions Partnership Adds Biometrics to Check-in Kiosks

Healthcare IT security company Imprivata has partnered with Connected Technology Solutions to allow self-service, single patient registration at CTS check-in kiosks. Imprivata’s identifier technology is called PatientSecure and enables hospitals to use biometric palm vein scans at CTS kiosks to verify medical information, insurance validation and co-pay collection without the need for doctors or patients to manually enter the information.

“The use of biometric identification at registration kiosks is a great addition to our solutions and helps transform the entire registration and intake process, working directly with the Epic EHR,” Marc Avallone, vice president of sales and business development at CTS said in a statement. “Integrating Imprivata PatientSecure palm-vein biometrics with our kiosks has sped up the patient identification process and assures positive patient identification every time. This improves patient safety, overall registration throughput, and ultimately enhances the entire patient experience.”

Praxify Officially Launches Following Successful Pilot

Healthcare IT company Praxify, which makes apps and software to augment EHRs and improve workflow, officially launched at HIMSS following a successful pilot with Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami. Praxify’s two products are MIRA, a mobile app designed to improve EHR usability by collecting, analyzing and displaying relevant patient data on an easy to read interface; and SIYA, a care management platform for payers, providers and patients. At Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, doctors tried out MIRA (which also features voice-activated digital assistance and adaptable templates), and reported a 30 percent uptick in their documentation and order creation speed. Praxify is also an Apple Mobility Partner and has worked with the tech giant to design the product to fit specifically for a doctor’s mobile workflow.  

Tactio Health and Garmin Partner with a Focus on Senior Citizens

Montreal-based Tactio Health, which makes mobile apps and device and app-connected platforms to enable remote monitoring, is working with wearable company Garmin to develop a telehealth program specifically focused on senior citizens. Garmin and Tactio have collaborated since 2014, and after running some pilots to identify which criteria are most important to seniors (such as a unified user experience and long battery life), the two companies have created a product that directly integrates vivofit 3 wearables with the TactioRPM patient apps. The single, unified offering allows payers, providers and pharma to conduct health and wellness monitoring programs with a single patient-facing app.

Salesforce Integrates Validic’s Platform to Offer a Health/Wellness Application of its CRM

Salesforce is now integrating Validic’s personal health data connectivity platform with its Customer Relationship Management system and Salesforce HealthCloud. The integration adds a “Health/Wellness” application into the CRM, so Salesforce can securely view Validic-provided data from over 400 personal health devices – such as those that track sleep, weight and biometrics from remote chronic condition monitoring  – through displays stored natively in the Salesforce interface, allowing for care teams to manage patient populations in near real-time.

AARP Announces $10k Innovation Prize

The Innovation Champion Award is aimed at spurring innovation in aging, "empowering people to choose how they live as they age." A primary criterion, however, will be universal design, that is, design that appeals and offers usability to all age groups.

Caregiving will be the theme of the competition this year, a field that will demand innovation over the next few years, according to AARP.

By 2020, 117 million Americans are expected to need assistance, but the overall number of caregivers will only reach 45 million. This is a huge opportunity for companies large and small to reach an emerging market – and improve the lives of caregivers and their recipients.

Entries in any of the six following caregiving categories will be accepted:

  1. Health & Safety Awareness
  2. Care Coordination
  3. Transition Support
  4. Social Well-Being
  5. Caregiver Quality of Life
  6. Daily Essential Activities

Companies interested in competing in the event need to apply by April 15th. In addition to the $10,000 prize, winners will receive a trip for 2 company representatives to Washington D.C. where they will be given a tour AARP’s Innovation Lab and meet with AARP Chief Innovation Officer, Terry Bradwell. They will also be given official recognition at AARP HQ event, an ad or Editorial coverage in i3 magazine, and AARP Innovation Champion consulting.

Online Dating Profiles of Older Adults Reveal Their Definitions of Smart Aging

As US and Canadian populations age, more and more tech companies--both startups and market leaders--are focusing attention on ways to deliver successful or “smart” aging to this sizable demographic. Getting older users to adopt their solutions, however, will likely require a robust understanding of just what successful aging entails in the eyes of those users themselves.

According to a PEW Research study, more and more older are adults dating online, and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute scientist Dr. Ben Mortenson saw this trend as a way to mine those online profiles for insight. His findings were published recently in the Canadian Journal on Aging.

Dr. Mortenson, an assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, explains that he and principal investigator Dr. Laura Hurd Clarke and co-author Dr. Mineko Wada embarked on the study in part because of pushback against the [standard model of successful aging put forth in the 1997] Rowe and Kahn model.

The Rowe and Kahn Model of Successful Aging includes three criteria: low probability of disease and disability, high physical and cognitive functioning, and active life engagement. According to the model, an older adult who meets all three of these criteria is aging successfully.

Critics say that this model is insufficient, and Mortenson and his co-authors thought online dating profiles would be the perfect way to test it.

“Rowe and Kahn’s criteria ignore all of the subjective elements of aging like, ‘How do you feel about your aging experience? Are you actually happy with the way you’re aging,’ etc.,” he says. “And the other main critique is that it ignores societal influences on aging, like poverty and access to health care. It really puts the task of successful aging all on the individual.”

The [Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute] study looked at how older adults presented themselves in their online dating profiles to see if their self-presentation reflected Rowe and Kahn’s criteria of successful aging.

“[I]f successful aging per the Rowe and Kahn criteria is taking place,” [said Mortenson], you’d think that older adults would be presenting themselves in that way, with low disease and disability, high cognitive and physical functioning, and actively engaged in life.”

After reviewing 320 older adult profiles from, the researchers found that only nine per cent of the online daters met the Rowe and Kahn criteria.

Nonetheless, the Rowe and Kahn model is right about at least one of the criteria of successful aging: social engagement.

[T]he researchers found that almost 80 per cent of the online profiles met the criteria of being engaged with, and active in, life.

“That’s really what they’re stressing and telling each other: “I’m active, I’m out there, I’m involved,” says Dr. Mortenson.

It is also noteworthy that there was a significant gender difference reported by the study.

Women regardless of age tended to mention more often how actively they’re engaged in life, whereas older men were much less likely to do so.

“Women as a whole tend to have much better social connections whereas for men, much of their social connections is through work,” says Dr. Mortenson. “And so when men retire, unless they’re really assertive and trying very hard to remain engaged, this could be a potential issue for them.”

The research team point out that, in addition to their self-presentation preferences, there are larger lessons here: older adults are more tech savvy than think and still interested in their sex lives.

Dr. Mortenson shares that he was drawn to the study because of its anti-ageist premise.

“I think many people think of older adults as asexual and technophobic,” he says. “And in fact, this research highlights that they’re actually very interested in forming relationships, meeting people, and they’re using the same kind of social media that younger people are using.”

“Older adults aren’t nearly as different from younger people as the media likes to portray.”

The implications for companies hoping to serve this population are significant. And finding ways to help older men engage socially may be an under-met need or at least one that will require a differentiated approach.

For Dr. Mortenson, some of the previously established and accepted ways of thinking about successful aging may no longer be relevant.

“I think we need to think more about how we can promote people’s engagement in life, especially among those older men who may be floundering a bit,” Dr. Mortenson says. “This was a great study for our time given where Canada’s population is going.”

For an Aging Population, Rehab Robotics Promises to Extend Mobility, Control

This week, Arizona State University hosted its fifth annual Rehabilitation Robotics Conference. More than 300 rehab robotics researchers, clinicians and industry leaders gathered to discuss the future uses of rehabilitation robotics for an aging US population.

Thomas Sugar, founder SpringActive Inc. and mechanical engineer at ASU who specializes in wearable technology, made some ambitious predictions:

[I]n the next five years, older people and others with mobility problems will be able to rent robotic exoskeletons that make [everything from] dream vacations [to] mundane tasks a possibility.

“We’re on the cusp of making these technologies available and affordable for the general public,” Sugar said Tuesday. SpringActive Inc. aims to have a robotic prosthetic ankle in production for the general population within the next year.

Recent advances in the field--many that grew out of prosthetic research for military veterans--are particularly well positioned to serve those in the 50+ market seeking recovery from injury or illness.

The field covers a range of assistive therapies and devices, including exoskeletons that support walking and lifting, treadmill-like robots that help stroke survivors use their arms and legs, and prosthetics that allow users to sense space and dimension.

“The conference provides our junior investigators with an unprecedented opportunity to hear about three decades of research from the people who created the field,” said Marco Santello, a neurophysiologist and director of the School of Biological Health Sciences. “We have collected research on neuroplasticity, locomotion dynamics and a myriad of other body-machine interfaces. The next phase will bring a new generation of rehabilitative technologies.”

Rehabilitation robotics also offer promising implications for collecting data for medical research, a fact that may help in adoption of the technology by individual physical therapy clinics and research hospitals alike.

Widespread clinical acceptance of rehabilitation robotics is the most significant change we’ll see in the next decade, said Neville Hogan, a mechanical engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who spoke at the conference.

Tech-savvy therapists recognize the value of assistive robotics and see the standardized data collection they afford as a major benefit, Hogan said.

“It’s far less subjective than the clipboard methods of the past, and enhances our ability to tailor therapy to individual patients,” he said.

Optimism about advances coming in the next five years included unprecedented fine motor control of prosthetic limbs with mental commands and individualizing robotic products to the patient-specific level.

Research by Dario Farina, chair of neurorehabilitation engineering at the Imperial College of London’s Department of Bioengineering,...has enabled the simultaneous processing of hundreds of motor neurons — the signals the brain sends to muscles — without invasive procedures.  The breakthrough has challenged classic views on the neural activity that drives steadiness in the performance of precise tasks and is expected to result in prosthetic devices that give patients unprecedented levels of fine motor control.

[In short], patients will be able to control prosthetic devices with the same, automatic mental commands used to control their natural hands.

Panagiotis Artemiadis, [another] ASU mechanical engineer whose research includes mechatronics and human-robot interaction [said], “In the next five years, we’ll be able to adjust robotics to be patient specific.”

Guest Voices: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins of Honor on Family Caregiving Tips and Trends

Linda calls her Dad for her daily check-in. “How did Mom do today?”  While listening to him recount how Mom slept, what she ate, and whether she took her medications, the working mother of two scribbles the notes down on a pad in her office cube.  This is a snapshot of how millions of men and women juggle their roles as family caregivers.

The AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving estimate about 34-million Americans provide unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older. Each year that statistic is expected to grow along with the aging baby boomer population. (source: AARP 2015 Report)

Today, we are hearing more about home care options and learning more about the changing attitudes around family caregiving from a new national survey.

The 2016 Honor Family Caregiving Survey reveals that a larger number of Americans who hadn’t yet been exposed to the caregiving process viewed caring for an older loved one as a “burden.”  This same group also expressed far greater concern over the financial impact of providing care.  Those who were already deep in the trenches of a caregiving role viewed the experience as a “gift,” and were less concerned about cost implications, despite the potential toll on career, financial security and other life responsibilities.

New information also shows it’s not just senior spouses providing care.

Out of 1000 adults over the age of 18, 40% said they have served as a caregiver for an aging loved one.  And a combined 35% are 18-44.  Four out of every 10 caregivers are men.  This is growing to become a shared responsibility which stretches across communities of men, women, young, older, and all socioeconomic levels.

What came as a surprise is that regardless of our current life stage and attitudes toward assuming a caregiver role, when that moment comes for us to provide long-term support to an aging parent or grandparent - many of us are simply unprepared.  Nearly 57% of survey respondents said if a loved one needed immediate care, they could not provide it.  And, nearly 88% surveyed said it would be up to them -- alone or with a sibling -- to shoulder the responsibility.

Here are 3 tips that can help take some stress out of caring for an aging loved one:

  1. Create a caregiving plan that involves the recipient and other family members.  Ninety-one percent surveyed indicated that their loved one would prefer to stay in their own home, if possible. Volunteers and professional caregivers alike should always be appropriately vetted with a background check and provided with feedback after each visit to ensure that their care style and protocols are in sync with family member expectations.
  1. Establish and maintain a relationship with your loved one’s medical team and share regular notes and communication to help keep them informed about care and wellness routines that take place in the home.
  1. Remember that it is important to care for yourself too - prioritizing your own health will help you manage stress and, ultimately, be a more effective care provider.

Tip number 3 is really important. Linda and her Dad recently added a paid Care Pro to help with her Mom’s care. She is there a few hours a day to make her happy, comfortable and safe. She is also there to give Linda and her Dad a much-needed break.  And that helps them embrace their roles as family caregivers as a “gift.”


Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is Head of Care at Honor home care company. She is a labor advocate and family caregiver.

Baby Boomers Get To Change Diapers Again; This Time It’s Their Parents

The title of my article doesn't conjure up happy thoughts, does it? Unfortunately, this may be the new reality for many Baby Boomers, caring for parents at home. In a recent interview with the tech/healthcare startup, Hometeam, CEO Josh Bruno illustrated the dichotomy of adults providing direct care for their parents and grandparents. “Close to 92% of adults would prefer to live in their own home as opposed to a nursing home.  This, in conjunction with financial considerations, means that in the U.S. there are roughly 55 million adults taking care of their parents.”

How did this happen?  According to a 2016 report from the Population Reference Bureau, “The combined effects of delayed childbearing and longer life expectancy mean more adults in later-middle age may be ‘sandwiched’ between the competing demands of their children and those of their aging parents and parents-in-law. Women—who have traditionally served as care providers—are more likely to be employed than in previous generations, limiting their availability, and increasing their time constraints.”