“For the first time ever, there are more people over 65 than under 5.” It´s a resounding figure that categorically proves that demographic trends point squarely to an aging population. In the U.S. alone, 77 million Baby Boomers are already seniors, and most of these are acting as caregivers to elderly parents and loved ones. In other continents, like Europe and Asia, the same is happening. We are in the midst of a senior population bulge that will last for a long time.
With the goal of finding solutions that will allow older people to remain full-time residents in their homes for as long as possible, the “aging-in-place” technology market aims to meet the demand. Already, there is an increase in smart home devices, a huge number of services around elderly and connected living designed to adapt to the needs of seniors who may be losing physical mobility but who still wish to live independently. It is documented that 87 percent of seniors would prefer to continue living at home for as long as possible.
Internet of Things technologies allow more seniors to live independently in the comfort of their own homes. Devices such as smart home sensors are poised to become driving forces in the market catering to the coming “silver tsunami.” In addition, technology is no longer a problem for this market segment. According to a recent study by AARP Research, adoption of portable devices such as smartphones and tablets keeps growing among Americans over 50; half of them own a smartphone, and one in ten a wearable device.
When seniors living alone are equipped with smart devices that send an alert immediately after a fall or dispatch, timely help ensures quicker recovery, significantly reducing expenses. Self-learning systems for seniors, which learn their activity and behavior patterns and report anomalies, reduce costs further by catching illnesses in the early stage – like someone suddenly increasing bathroom visits or reducing trips to the kitchen – before they require hospitalization.
To put this further into perspective, every 15 seconds in the U.S. an older adult visits an emergency room suffering from a fall-related injury. Five percent of older people who fall injure themselves seriously enough to necessitate a hospital stay. If someone has fallen once, they are at much increased risk of subsequent falls. The direct medical costs of fatal and non-fatal injuries from falling totals over $28 billion every year. For those aged 72 and older, the average healthcare bill for a fall injury came to $19,440 in 2010, a figure that will only continue to increase.
Service providers have an opportunity to support this demand through new services and partnerships. The communications service provider or network operator are in an excellent position to provide these devices. While service providers can deliver best-in-class smart home platforms, you may want to cooperate with exclusives partners to maximize the success of smart home services, especially one as critical, and sensitive, as aging in place. This can be achieved by partnerships with healthcare providers or insurers, thought leadership, and also enabling the introduction of value-added services like 24/7 monitoring. Similar partnerships exist in home security and home insurance, creating a win-win-win situation.
The advantages of connected aging has already been demonstrated in the reduced use of healthcare services and improvements in care delivery, quality of life, and satisfaction. Technology also benefits older adults by increasing connectivity with family and community and by offering older adults greater independence in managing their own healthcare. The full impact of connected aging will be to not just keep older adults from inappropriate levels of care, but to support them in thriving, being independent, and having a significantly better quality of life.
Rafi Zauer is the head of marketing for Essence, which provides of connected-living technologies for senior independent-living and cloud-based home security and management. For more information, visit www.essence-grp.com.