Maybe you’ve heard it said: “Aging isn’t for sissies.” The popular adage reveals the reality that there are many challenges to growing older. In the past, it was assumed that decline was the inevitable that seniors could expect. However, today’s elders are living longer, remaining active, and have more resources than ever before.
The increase in life expectancy comes at a time when worldwide birthrates have reduced. In the U.S, for example, the Census Bureau predicts that by 2034 the trend will amount to an unprecedented exchange of older adults outnumbering children.
The impacts of this shift on society and the economy will continue to play out, but the corresponding strain on the healthcare system is already being realized. Healthcare providers are faced with caring for a larger portion of older patients while resources (including dollars and caregivers) continue to decrease.
As the healthcare industry works to find the balance, it’s technology that has proven to be the game-changer. Termed “Age Tech,” companies have stepped up, especially in the past decade, to offer solutions aimed at serving the healthcare industry and (specifically) seniors.
The flurry of constant technology change is a daunting climb for some. Here, we highlight a few of the most significant trends and how they could impact those we care for in the near term.
Age Tech for Healthcare Providers
The whirlwind of companies getting into Age Tech is increasing as innovators seize on the opportunity to solve issues. Many of the pioneering ideas are exciting because they are bringing health care professionals together with other stakeholders who serve seniors and senior tech users themselves into the mix to create new ideas.
Per The Gerontechnologist, which features the 2021 Age Tech Market Map, there are 15 areas where technology experts are working to deliver solutions to serve seniors. Top tier categories include “Health,” “Wellness” and “Senior Living.” These reveal the largest number of companies onboard, too.
Other categories with fewer companies include “Housing,” “Legacy” and “End of Life Planning.” The acknowledge some of the most pressing challenges in the industry, such as the caregiver shortage, connectivity access and tech setup challenges for seniors.
Challenges aside, the transition to using more technology continues—most notably in the healthcare industry where tech helps streamline operations and offer patients more options.
The category “For Healthcare Providers” features a number of companies such as Vitalerter and Quil, both of whom are focused on care management technology used to monitor clients and alert medical staff of important, real-time medical data.
The Longevity Economy
Seniors are a savvy consumer group that are already having an increasing economic impact, and the trend is expected to continue. Per the AARP, the longevity economy represents the sum of all activity serving the needs of Americans over 50, including both products and services they purchase and the spending that generates.
The prediction is that elders will account for half of U.S. GDP by 2032.
Older adults don’t expect to age into silent oblivion, and today they are more willing to try and utilize technology. They want to “do for themselves” for as long as possible. Technology is looking for new ways to help extend and improve quality of life for seniors to meet the goal of independence.
The technology area “Independence” is divided into subsets of “Everyday Assistance,” “Sensory Aids,” “Mobility,” “Transportation,” “Finance” and “Activities of Daily Living” with companies like Naborforce connecting caretakers with seniors through an online portal.
Other areas that feed into serving both healthcare providers and seniors include “For Home Care Providers,” “Social & Communication,” “Cognitive Care” and “Tech-Enabled Home Care.”
Services such as Lifepod, for example, offer “patient-centered custom interactions” to keep seniors engaged and safe at home. The virtual assistant helps elders maintain routines, as well as provide immediate connection to community support if needed.
Aging as an Adventure
Aging as an adventure is no longer just for seniors. With more elders than young people in the population soon, caregivers and other senior care professionals are being called on to do more.
The Age Tech industry is working to address this need for families and employers who recognize offering support to their staff who must balance home care life with work life is a benefit. Torchlight, for example, can intuitively deliver information to aide caregivers as they explore the services and options they need to care for seniors (and young children, too).
While aging is still an adventure, Age Tech innovators are seeking new ways to make the ride less bumpy—for both seniors and those who serve them. As a result, the technology which might have once been only the tool of youth is proving to be of service to everyone no matter their age.