Tech can help the elderly…if they use it

2016.05.01 05Across the US, caregivers are turning to apps, devices and websites, collectively known as “age tech,” to do everything from manage medications to coordinate care. This includes technology designed specifically for older family members, like a medical alert necklace, as well as devices like iPads.

Though adoption of this technology has been slow, the market is huge and getting bigger. More than 34 million American adults provide unpaid care to someone 50 or older, according to a survey conducted last year by the National Alliance for Caregiving. And the US Census Bureau says the number of people who need care will only grow: By 2060, the 65 and older age group will more than double, to 98 million people (from 46 million in 2014).

Technology companies are rushing to meet what they see as a growing demand, and investors are paying attention. Funding for companies making health-care products for people aged 50 or older has more than quadrupled over the last several years, to nearly $2 billion last year from $425 million in 2010, according to StartUp Health, an investment firm.

“The economic power of the 50-plus market is almost half of the US economy,” said Stephen Johnston, co-founder of Aging 2.0, a tech company that connects entrepreneurs with the elder-care industry. Johnston estimates that the number of age-related startups tripled in the past three years.

At an Aging 2.0 Expo in November, hundreds of senior-care products were on display. There were sensors that alert caregivers to the activity of Alzheimer’s patients, an employment website for caregivers and a full-body suit that simulates the physical experience of aging to help people better understand what it feels like and encourage them to make plans for growing old.

Tech can help the elderly…if they use it