Marketing technology to help seniors "Age in Place"

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Bostonians refer to our city as the Hub.  To me, this often sees like a self-important and provincial perspective.  Yet, today, I found reasons to believe otherwise.

The occasion was a meeting about Emerging Technologies for the Silver Tsunami: Aging in Place through the use of Integrated Technology convened by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council at the Boston office of the British Consulate.  It was the panelists' presentations and the questions and comments from the audience that convinced me that Boston may very well be "the hub"-at least when it comes to leading the charge on "Aging in Place".

The program began with presentations from three experts-all of whom are nationally renowned.  Laurie Orlov, the only non-Bostonian to speak, is an industry analyst and the founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch a "go to" source for thought leadership and trends in this emerging market.

Andrea Cohen, the CEO of Houseworks, the largest private-pay home care company in New England, and Judy Willet, Executive Director of Beacon Hill Village, an innovative nonprofit organization that helps local residents grow old in familiar surroundings, followed Laurie.  Both of their organizations are pioneers in their respective fields and regularly test and vet technology on behalf of the communities they serve.

Market needs

Andrea offered deep insights into the needs and concerns of adult children, seniors, and their caregivers relative to the acquisition and use of technology.  Judy presented a view of how Baby Boomers will age in place and reminded technology vendors that the senior population is diverse and that one size will not fit all.

Next up, was a panel comprised of representatives from four technology companies addressing the needs of those "aging in place" and/or their caregivers.  Michael Dempsey, Entrepreneur in Residence at MGH and CIMIT did a great job moderating the discussion between this panel and the audience.

Advice for technology companies

I believe the Mass TLC will make the slides available so I have not attempted to summarize the content.  Instead, I've just noted advice I believe technology companies may find useful in the order that I heard them.  See caveats in next section.

  • Health and wellness is just one requirement (Orlov)
  • Other priorities are communication and engagement, contribution and learning, and safety and security (Orlov)
  • Seniors will require support, so consider offering subscriptions that bundle products and services (Orlov)
  • Don't wait for reimbursement; most technology will only be covered by private payments at least in the near term (Orlov)
  • Get into your buyers' minds.  (Cohen)
  • Recognize you need unique messages for : adult children, seniors, professional caregivers (Cohen)
  • Crisis triggers demand, few plan ahead (Cohen)
  • Multiple market opportunities to enhance communications:  within families and communities, between families and caregivers, and between seniors and caregivers (Cohen)
  • Technology offers professional caregivers an opportunity to elevate their brands above the competition (Cohen)
  • Technology may enable professional caregivers to add a billable service line-without adding staff (Cohen)
  • Everyone's needs are different; design solutions that caregivers or users can customize (Cohen)
  • It's all about trust.  Earn a stellar reputation or partner with a company that has one (Cohen)
  • Provide benchmarks, justify ROI (Cohen)
  • Young seniors will spend money for technology that improves their lives; older seniors tend not to spend money on technology (Willet)
  • Transportation is the number one service seniors use, what can you design to enhance it? (Willet)
  • Think about ways to decrease isolation (Willet)
  • As with other health care services, you need a strategy for raising awareness locally rather than nationally (Willet)
  • Don't make assumptions, speak to users (Cohen)
  • Look to Apple as a model for usability and building a whole infrastructure/value chain that promotes adoption (audience member)
  • There is room for niche providers: Paraphrasing Steve Jobs, "Do something really meaningful, really well" (Manson)
  • Parent/child relationships aren't honest, third parties must be part of the discussion (Manson)
  • Think about not only what data stakeholders need, but what protocols they require to use the data effectively (Goudswaard?)
  • Consumers will pay to improve lifestyle, expect insurers to reimburse clinical technology(Goudswaard)
  • Professional caregivers can't obtain the info they require to advise clients on best solutions (audience member from Maine VNA)
  • Vendors may need to educate, train, and provide incentives for professional caregivers to encourage referrals of their technologies (Goudswaard)

Major conclusions:

  • Usability is essential (minimize the need for training and support through superior design)
  • Integration is a major challenge (jeopardizes usability since most users will require multiple products)
  • Clinicians and professional caregivers are important referrers/distribution channels
  • Appears to be great market opportunities for individuals/organizations that will facilitate selection, integration, service, and/or upgrades of technology for users and for professional caregivers
  • Human psychology and behavior will present major challenges that technology can't address alone

Caveats:

Unfortunately, I missed most of Laurie's presentations due to major road construction projects in the Newton/Brighton area.   Where I captured the identity of the individual who provided the insight, I included it in parentheses.  I apologize for any missing or inaccurate attributions.  Please feel free to let me know in the "comments" section and I will make the necessary corrections.

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