December 20, 2018
RALEIGH, NC–The development of tech for older adults has always lagged behind based on the misconception that “seniors do not like or want technology.” Kuldip Pabla, SVP of engineering for K4Connect, a technology company that creates solutions for older adults and individuals living with disabilities, knows otherwise. As the fastest growing demographic globally (by 2050 the number of older persons will reach 2.1 billion), older adults both need and want technology that’s built specifically for them, Kuldip provides 5 predictions that we should expect to see in the tech space for older adults in 2019:
Consolidation of the senior-care vendor market: The technology industry has lagged in engaging and serving the older adult and senior living markets. This gave way to several niche vendors selling point products or single feature apps, which has put an unreasonable burden on senior living executives and older adults to play the role of system integrator and support when it comes to attempting to create enterprise solutions. This is a huge barrier and cost for seniors, caregivers, AL/IL community operators, and loved ones – who have to deal with 10 apps or more, or dozens of vendors. In addition, this has prevented the industry from adopting technology at scale. During 2019, we will see a beginning of consolidation in this market, where players with 360-degree services around the residents will start gaining traction. These new integrated enterprise approaches will dramatically improve user experience and value creation for older adults/residents as well as caregivers, community operators and loved ones.
Digital Transformation in senior care begins: There are nearly 50 million seniors in the U.S. and nearly one billion around the world. These numbers are expected to grow aggressively in the next few decades. At the same time, there is a growing shortage of skilled workers to help with the rising demand for caregivers. This shortage is one of the biggest potential global challenges we will face in the years to come. To address this, in 2019 and beyond, CxO’s will look to technology to fill the void. To be clear this is not technology replacing jobs, but rather technology solutions that will provide caregivers with the ability to scale impact. This market reality will lead to a steady transformation of a hands-on labor-intensive market to a digitally enhanced market, which is at the same time high touch and high tech.
New Technology Enabled Business Models: For decades the business model in senior living communities has evolved, but hasn’t been revolutionized. While the buildings, the amenities, the services, etc. have all evolved to meet the needs of residents, the business model itself has stagnated. In 2019, new models will accelerate all enabled by technology. Two great examples are the much talked about, but rarely seen in practice, the “CCRC without Walls” and “At Home” programs. Communities often have excess capacity or economies of scale across services like wellness, culinary, caregiving and events/programming. At the same time, many older adults may want to continue to live at home a bit longer. Smart technology solutions such as smart home, smart wellness and smart living will unlock the ability for communities to drive new lines of revenue and expand their impact.
Deeper end-to-end voice first user experience: Despite studies showing that technology adoption among older adults is growing rapidly, many still experience difficulties with technology – which is often designed for someone 60 years their junior. Voice is the solution to that. In 2019, we’ll see an acceleration of voice becoming more popular among seniors as it can provide a natural, easier, and deeper experience for interfacing with technology. Voice solutions require less training, and as voice models improve they provide a truly conversational interface. In addition, voice solutions in senior living will move from pilot mode and into full deployments. The fusion of voice with smart home, smart wellness, machine learning, and relevant contents will go deeper in terms of providing a superior and contextual user experience. In 2019, the service providers and communities, who will succeed with voice, will focus on enterprise deployment, management, support, and analytics.
Introduction of data and machine learning for predictive analytics: With Smart Home technologies (lights, thermostats, etc.) already taking deeper roots in the homes of older adults and senior living communities, the next step will be a move towards predicting healthcare. Over the next year, it will be mainly a manual way of predicting by correlating data from different sources. However, over time it will be algorithmic. For example, correlating what was ate, with sleeping patterns and with the fluctuation in vitals could lead to a prediction of what’s coming and how it can be avoided. Specifically, senior living communities, home care/health agencies and even insurance companies, will be interested in predictive healthcare as it will help them foresee and avoid (or delay) impending health events all while empowering the older adults they serve to live richer more engaged lives.