Technology + Aging in Place

Blog post by Colin Hung

Over the past several weeks, I had the opportunity to meet with several entrepreneurs who have created applications and devices to help people age in place. Some of them have brilliant solutions, others are in the “go-back-to-the-drawing-board category”.

However, there was one glaring oversight by all but one of these company founders – asking an actual elderly person (that wasn’t a family member) who wants to stay at home, what they thought about their solution. Asking would-be customers for their opinions on products is always a good idea, not just for their input on the usefulness of the product itself, but also for how the product/service integrates into their daily life.

Several of the solutions I saw, were brilliant ideas when viewed in isolation, but that would be difficult to implement. Because of NDAs I cannot reveal actual solutions, so I will use this approximation (not from an actual company I reviewed) to illustrate my point.

Imagine a device, that mounts to the bathroom mirror (or the fridge) and takes a photo of the elderly person each time they use it. These photos are sent to the company’s cloud servers where they are analyzed using AI to determine if the person is doing better or worse than the day before/week before/month before. If the result is “worse” then it automatically contacts the elderly person’s loved ones via an automated message.

Now imagine version 2 of this device that would allow for real-time communication with the loved one and/or this device being worn vs mounted to something inside the home.

Hopefully you can see where I’m heading with this.

I can’t imagine trying to convince an able-bodied elderly person to agree to having their picture taken every time they go to the fridge to grab something to eat. It feels too much like Big Brother. Even if they can overcome their aversion to having their photograph taken and sent to the cloud…would they really want their daughter/son/friends calling them randomly to ask what’s wrong with them today?

From the loved ones’ perspective the device does sound reasonable, until you think through how often you’ll need to potentially call your elderly loved one based on an alert sent by the company.

When you think about this device for a moment you realize that the zero-cost alternative if nearby friends and involvement in the community. If your elderly loved one has a close group of friends that they socialize with or if they have numerous daily activities either as part of a community or on their own, then is there really a need for this type of device? Is this device, therefore, just for the subset of the population that does not have either of these?

This example illustrates some of the questions I would love to explore with the HCLDR community this week. Is privacy the price we have to pay to age at home? Is constant surveillance at home the only answer? How can you broach the subject of preparing the home for elderly loved ones? What suggestions do you have for entrepreneurs looking to ride the growing age-at-home movement?

Chat Questions

Join me on #hcldr, Tuesday July 23rd at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) when we will explore  this topic in more depth:

  • T1 What technology or solution would YOU like to have to help you stay at home as you age?
  • T2 Do you feel that constant surveillance of a elderly loved one is acceptable if it means they can stay at home longer?
  • T3 What suggestions do you have for broaching the subject of getting your parents/loved one’s home equipped for them to age in place (ie: cameras, beds, lifts, special showers)?
  • T4 What advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to get into the aging-in-place market? What should they do? What should they not do?

References

Courtney, KL, “Privacy and Senior Willingness to Adopt Smart Home Information Technology in Residential Care Facilities”,  Methods Inf Med, 2008, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/a027/1f1e669cb80a1a3021f8b6f00b67dd07b4c3.pdf, accessed 22 July 2019

Fausset, Cara Bailey et al. “Challenges to Aging in Place: Understanding Home Maintenance Difficulties.” Journal of Housing For The Elderly, 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3209521/, accessed 22 July 2019

“Aging in Place: Growing Older at Home”, National Institute on Aging, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/aging-place-growing-older-home, accessed 22 July 2019

Fike, Katy. “The 8 Challenges of Aging”, Forbes, 6 April 2018, https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2018/04/06/the-8-challenges-of-aging/#61882bc31f4a, accessed 22 July 2019

Molinsky, Jennifer. “Four Challenges too Aging in Place”, Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 25 January 2017, https://www.jchs.harvard.edu/blog/four-challenges-to-aging-in-place/, accessed 22 July 2019

Fitzpatrick, Ashley. “Made in Canada solutions: answers to seniors’ care challenges can start at home”, The Telegram, 27 June 2019, https://www.thetelegram.com/in-depth/caring-for-seniors/solutions-to-seniors-care-challenges-can-start-at-home-327422/, accessed 22 July 2019

Elers, Phoebe et al. “User Requirements for Technology to Assist Aging in Place: Qualitative Study of Older People and Their Informal Support Networks.” JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 6 Jun. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010833/, accessed 22 July 2019

“IoT and Seniors”, AgingInPlace.com, July 2019, https://www.aginginplace.org/iot-and-seniors/, accessed 22 July 2019

Abrahms, Sally. “New Technology Could Allow You or Your Parents to Age at Home”, AARP, March 2014, https://www.aarp.org/home-family/personal-technology/info-2014/is-this-the-end-of-the-nursing-home.html, accessed 22 July 2019

Kamiel, Anita. “A Hot Trend: The Internet, Social Media & The Elderly”, Huffington Post, 8 March 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/older-people-social-media_b_9191178, accessed 22 July 2019

Image Credit

Photo by Sam Wheeler on Unsplash

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