It's no secret that the global adult population, 65 and over, will triple the next few decades, from 524 million (2010) or 8 percent to about 1.5 billion (2050) or 16 percent. The better-developed countries will have the oldest residents. So, if you're a tech developer in search of an industry that has no end (anytime soon) of users who need your help with disruptive devices and apps, this market is pure gold. It's one with massive potential.
Here's why. If you think health and long-term care expenses are high now, wait till the aging demographic triples! In 2012, close to half of all adults, 117 million people, had one or more chronic health conditions. And one of four adults had two or more (CDC). You don't need a calculator to understand the devastating effects that chronic illnesses will have over the next few decades.
If you're like most people, you probably don't know the aging market very well. As a matter of fact, you'd rather dismiss it altogether. But when money dangles, and you have an opportunity to satisfy the needs of this golden market, it's smart to learn fast. SeniorCare.com can help. They put together an Aging Expert Q&A that will give tech developers a road map to absorb the needed intelligence to be a billionaire and cash in on the global explosion.
Here's what you need to know:
When designing aging-related services, where can tech developers and entrepreneurs go to understand older adults' needs?
Do Aging Sensitivity Exercises
Shannon Martin, Aging Wisely - The first step should be to do an aging sensitivity exercise. I used to run these with my Eldercare 101 students, and they found it quite eye opening. I used the LeeMemorial.org site. We also started with an aging myths quiz (http://faculty.webster.edu/woolflm/myth.html), because there are some very common misconceptions.
Stephan Forman, LTC Associates - One can walk a mile in the shoes of an elder by wearing Genworth's ingenious R70 body suit, which simulates the effects of aging. Weights in the extremities mimic muscle loss, a restrictive fabric makes it hard to stand straight and bend. Gloves make flexing difficult while a helmet muffles sound. Finally, one can vary lenses in the glasses to imitate cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration.
Nancy Ruffner, Navigate NC - An affordable strategy is shadowing: follow, mimic, interview, video, review. Walk a mile in the other (older) man's shoe. Just as engineers in the automotive industry study people in their driver seats, measuring field of vision, ability to reach the controls, comfort and safety the same line of thinking is invaluable in evaluating and testing solutions for the needs of older adults.
Nancy Kriseman, Geriatric Consulting - Professionals need to follow elders by experiencing a day in their life. Spend time in their homes, drive with them, go out with them to grocery stores, restaurants; really "see" and "experience" what could be useful and helpful to them. There is nothing like being in the trenches rather than just hearing stories or reading reports.
Connect with Aging Tech Associations and Advisors
Michelle Jeong, Reminder Rosie - There are several amazing organizations available if you spend the time/energy to reach out. Groups such as Aging2.0, the village movement, and Institute on Aging are incredible resources. There is an upcoming SF conference called AgeTech that would be a great place to learn and network. LifeAssist will be there so stop by and say hello!
Margo Rose, Body Aware Grieving - I'm a huge fan of AARP, the organization and the magazine. Developers and entrepreneurs should go to the AARP conventions, read their magazine and talk to advisors within AARP. New products and services need to be respectful and 'hip' enough for today's new generation of confident seniors.
Research and Due Diligence
Kathy Birkett, Senior Care Corner - First, tech developers and entrepreneurs need to realize older adults aren't one market with a single set of needs any more than are other age groups. To understand needs, they should conduct market research to understand what is important to segments of the older adult population. It goes beyond asking about needs, as we often don't realize our needs until we see a solution that meets them.
Martin Kimeldorf, Martin Kimeldorf - Throw out the spreadsheets and demographics. That data tells you where we've been, but not where we're going. Fire up your neurons that feed your intuition. Go out and have coffee in the local senior and care centers, host a party at a retirement community, talk-talk-joke-talk some more. Work up to cocktails and listen-listen-listen. Listen to folks chattering at senior care type of sites. Avoid anyone trying to sell you something. Enjoy your research and you'll find the vision.
Visit Senior Centers, Nursing Homes, and Churches
Kaye Swain, SandwichINK - Go to older seniors, perhaps in a nursing home or assisted living center. We need tech tools that will easily keep working even as memory and skills fade. If the tech tools add too many "cool" components, older seniors stop using them.
Tim Murray, Aware Senior Care - Visit seniors in the home. There's no substitute for talking to them and going inside their house to see how they live. A way to visit a senior's home is to visit and talk with a reliable home care agency. Home care agencies serve thousands of seniors and in hundreds of homes caring for complex health situations.
Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD, My Better Nursing Home - It's essential that older adults be included in this process. A senior center or LTC community might be interested in holding an event to discuss and test certain products. Having aging services staff available to aid communication between developers and senior would be helpful.
Rhonda Caudell, Endless Legacy - Senior centers, churches or other faith-based organizations with large senior groups, human resource departments of large to medium size employers to learn what services would help alleviate the caregiving provided by the unpaid family caregivers that the seniors need.
Connect with other Eldercare Professionals
Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH, Geriatrics for Caregivers - Talk to people who are experts in effectively helping older adults with their challenges. Such people might include care managers, practicing geriatricians, and academics who study various ways to help older adults.
Talk to the Families and Focus Groups
Donna Schempp, Eldercare Specialist - Go where you will find groups of seniors and can use them as focus groups. Also, network with organizations like people in the Village movement where you will find more active seniors who would be willing to share their expertise and insight.
David Inns, GreatCall - Which type of older adult are you trying to serve? Looking at this group uniformly will complicate your task. Completely independent older adults: try local groups or a focus group. Lightly cared for older consumers: independent living facilities. Heavily cared for older adults: work with the family caregiver, creating solutions that work for them both. If your solution only benefits the caregiver, the older consumer will not want to participate in the solution.
Kelly Lee Hardin, MSN, RN, CDE, Telcare - The most direct path to understanding the senior population is to go to the senior population themselves. It is a common misconception that these individuals have lost the ability to produce reasonable and intuitive suggestions for their own care. We cannot forget that the best person to ask about one's healthcare is the person, the individual themselves.