Jan 24, 2011 12:00 PM, By Christopher Wells
Systems For The Aging
“I want to live in my own home as long as possible.”
Such is the mantra of the baby boomers, the next generation in line to be counted among the elderly. What is exciting about this is that technology, much of the technology that you already are familiar with, is a vital element that supports a person’s ability to age in the place of their choosing. This presents the systems contractor with the opportunity to integrate these same technologies in a new and potentially profitable way.
“Home health technology” is a general phrase covering an array of hardware and software products integrated into a system whose job it is to monitor the living habits and patterns of one or more persons, generally elderly, and share that information with the relevant parties. This means, from a hardware point of view, that it includes sensors of all description, strategically located to detect the patterns and movement of the person. It can also include health monitoring devices such as weight scales; monitors for blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose; and an automatic med dispenser. Another category of devices has to do with controlling the things that an aging person might forget, such as being able to turn the stove off remotely after an alert arrives on the caregivers cell phone or to adjust the room temperature remotely if an email alert indicates it is too low. This brings us to the most important aspect: the software and hardware that takes all of this monitored information and communicates it in a timely and meaningful fashion to the caregivers. This ability to measure, log, compile, and present is what makes this type of system so valuable to those who care for seniors, and also to you as a potential new revenue stream for your company.
“It’s no secret that the elderly want to stay where they are, yet statistics show that about a fifth of family members caring for an aging loved one have to quit work,” says Jill Kerr, business relationship manager at Home Controls, the creators of the GrandCare System. “Imagine the stress this causes to the family and their resources. A system like GrandCare gives the family members and professional caregivers an environment that will send out alerts when something is wrong, track health and activity, and finally a social network where the grandchildren can send pictures and messages that can easily be viewed on an elder-friendly touchscreen. This system brings freedom and peace of mind to seniors who would otherwise be forced to move out of their home. Personally, this is a very fulfilling industry to be a part of.”
The driving force behind this age-purposed technology is threefold: First, the market size. The Census Bureau reports that during the 20th century, the U.S. population younger than age 65 tripled, but those 65 and older increased by a factor of 11. People are living longer now and that, combined with the aging baby boomers, makes for a huge market. The majority of those in this demographic, given a choice, want to age in place—within their own homes. Second, the children and grandchildren of this population generally are more supportive of this choice as long as safety is taken into consideration. This is significant because it is often the children that are making the decisions for their parents, and they typically use technology on a regular basis. Finally, we have the desire of caregivers, whether they are family members or managed care organizations, to be more efficient with their resources.
Here’s a few important market statistics: 39 million Americans are age 65 or older (senior) 10 million seniors live alone 25 percent of families care for someone outside the home 7 million Americans are long-distance caregivers 79 percent of care recipients are older than 50 Informal caregiving costs are estimated at $60 billion 57 percent of the 65 and older population has a cell phone, averaging three calls per day and 34 percent sleep with their cell phone 31 percent of the 65 and older population has a broadband connection, up 1 percent from 2009 (Pew Research) Baby boomers are the fastest growing age segment of Facebook’s 500 million members The market for home health monitoring is of sufficient size that Intel and GE formed a joint venture to develop and deploy in-home health technology products. (Sources: Aging in Place Technology Watch, the National Alliance for Caregiving, and AARP)
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