MetLife today reminds us why aging in place, like long-term care rates, will trend upward: With MetLife's new study just out that updated nursing home, assisted living, and home care rates, it is no wonder that seniors will, whether or not it is appropriate for them, increasingly age outside the nursing home and assisted living realms. On average across the United States, nursing home rates have risen 4.6%, to $83,585 per year; assisted living is up 5.2%, to $39,516 per year; and home care aides now cost, on average, $21 per hour. Home care, in particular, is untenable as 24/7 coverage—multiplying out to an impossible $183,960 per year. Nursing homes have closed; assisted living facilities are not full. Given rising life expectancy, especially for women, combined with rising rates of diabetes and other chronic diseases, we seem to be approaching a conundrum of longer life and poorer choices and options. This represents both an opportunity and a dilemma for today's vendors: the opportunity—filling in care gaps of every type with remote monitoring, health and fitness tools, video, and wearable technology. The dilemma—recognition that those who will benefit most may be least able to pay for it as currently marketed and priced—and until adoption is greater, price reductions and bundling into broader solutions is unlikely.
Speaking of user interfaces: What is the interface of the future? Microsoft's Kinect hoopla—gesture-based gaming that may be followed by gesture-based whatever, including video calls—represents an intriguing concept for the installed base of XBox users. Maybe some other large vendor will imitate. Game interfaces also bring up the question of user interfaces in general. With our phones, we are already pinching, swiping, and otherwise peering at smaller form factors. Add hand gestures (it's kind of fun to think about system misinterpretations of those), but also think about new sensor offerings. Last week I was also fortunate to drop in on the MIT Media Lab, where a student team of inventors demonstrated a dehydration bracelet, kind of Lance Armstrong–style, that blinks a red/green/yellow light if it's time to drink some water. Simple, communicative, smart—and they were thinking about runners, not seniors.
And a dream about tech-enabled access to transportation networks: If you didn't see Joseph Coughlin's Disruptive Demographic post about the future potential of a generation of shut-ins, consider the question he posed: "Why not use communications to integrate private taxis, demand response vehicles, and the wide array of regional public and private fleets into a single system that could manage and respond to public requests for transportation, connecting a regional system of vehicles to cell phones, computers, cable television boxes, etc., that would provide real time visibility and response to riders?" Circling back to the beginning, one of the reasons seniors move out of their homes is the inability to continue driving. And as the AARP study confirmed, their resulting loneliness and isolation won't be solved by giving everyone access to Facebook.
More vendors to mull—catalog vendors please take note: The AARP Orlando@50+ and Connected Health Symposium in Boston add a few more vendors (or new vendor offerings). As I look over the list (and the longer list of vendors from Connected Health), the value chain of referral organizations and family members will soon be overwhelmed with technologies for caregiving, connecting long-distance family members, finding the right tech tool for the right purpose. We have catalogs for every conceivable purpose, including a few that target seniors (like FirstSTREET and ElderLuxe). I have yet to see a moderately comprehensive catalog that identifies the useful technologies that will matter to adult children of aging parents: a kind of vetted SkyMall.
By Laurie Orlov
Aging in Place Technology Watch Blog
[First posted October 27, 2010, at Laurie's Aging in Place Technology Watch Web site.]