Sponsored by National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care
By Beth Burnham Mace
In 2020, there will be an estimated 23 million Americans over the age of 75 and 8.9 million over 83, a common move-in age of a resident to seniors housing. These will be members of the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation. And some of these older individuals --roughly 90,000-- will be centenarians or older. It’s not until the end of this upcoming decade in 2029 that the oldest baby boomer will have turned 83—effectively opening the proverbial floodgates for seniors housing.
But that doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back and just wait because there is a lot of change on the horizon for the seniors housing sector. This commentary highlights some of these changes, with a focus on technology.
Age-tech, gerontechnology, assistive technology, silver-tech are all descriptors of this emerging focus of technology applications as they specifically apply to older individuals. It’s the intersection of the gerontology and digitization and the applications are wide spanning as older adults and their family caregivers adopt technology that can support their shared goals of safety, longevity, independence, quality of life and connection to friends and family.
Aging 2.0 identifies “Eight Grand Challenges” for this intersection of aging and technology: (1) Engagement and Purpose, (2) Financial Wellness, (3) Mobility and Movement, (4) Daily Living and Lifestyle, (5) Caregiving, (6) Care Coordination, (7) Brain Health, and (8) End of Life.
While this commentary is too short to do justice to each these focus areas, below are a few applications being developed by a host of software and hardware entrepreneurs and businesses, including the mega-giants Amazon, Google and Apple. 4Gen estimates that revenues in the U.S. age-tech market exceeded more than $350 billion in 2018, a significant industry indeed.
Brain Health. Technology has the potential to help with cognitive care and brain health issues related to memory, language, problem solving and other cognitive skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
Caregiving, Mobility and Movement. From a health and wellness perspective, telehealth has the potential to reduce health care costs and improve health care coverage by allowing instant connectivity via video conferencing with live doctors. Hand-held devices with medical applications, remote monitoring of residents and connected equipment can provide visibility and insights about exercise regimens, diet and vital signs as well as help with sensory functions such as vision, hearing and motor skills.
Engagement, Purpose and Socialization. Socialization, engagement and purpose are important considerations in aging. Studies have found that social isolation and loneliness among seniors has the same impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, while a strong purpose in life can add five or more years of life span to older adults. Smart phones and appliances, remote sensors, mobile personalized connectivity applications and software systems have the potential to better allow aging in place, independence and virtual socialization
Daily Living, Lifestyle and Care Coordination. Robots, virtual assistants, smart phone apps, iPads and other devices can help with medication management, emergency response services, fall detection, vital signs tracking, transportation, finance, sensory aids and mobility aids. The on-demand economy can also help address these issues. Japan, whose society is aging more rapidly than the U.S., and which has a more vexing labor shortage challenge than does the U.S., is a good place to look at advancements in this realm.
As these technologies get tested and winners and losers emerge, the operations, real estate, social and medical aspects of the sector will be forever changed.
Beth Burnham Mace is the Chief Economist of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC) and has a passion for the industry.
Learn more at www.nic.org.
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