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Friday, March 12, 2021

Gerontechnology: The Boom in Tech for Older Adults

The massive market of older Americans is fueling an explosion of technology to serve them, and they are embracing the new products.

Gerontechnology, or “age tech” as it is sometimes called, comprises tech that is designed for use by older adults themselves, or by caregivers and other professionals who serve them. The International Society for Gerontechnology defines it as “designing technology and environment for independent living and social participation of older persons in good health, comfort and safety.”

Gerontechnology in Many Fields

Blogger (find her at The Gerontechnologist) and aging expert Keren Etkin has mapped out the gerontechnology landscape into fields and the companies that are developing products in each space. According to Etkin, gerontechnology can be grouped into:

  • Health
  • Wellness
  • Independence
  • Social and Communication
  • Cognitive Care
  • Tech-Enabled Home Care
  • End-of-Life Planning
  • Legacy
  • Retirement 2.0
  • InsureTech
  • Independence
  • Healthcare Providers
  • Caregivers 
  • Home Care Providers
  • Senior Living Communities

Easiest Way To Order Uber or Lyft

Studies show that depression and a loss of social engagement are often the result of an older adult’s decision to quit driving. It not ideal to depend on family and friends to drive you to appointments, bingo and social events. However, some older adults struggle to use a smartphone app to call for a car and driver. 

Enter GoGo Grandparent, a service that relieves the burden of transportation from friends and relatives, and hands back independence to someone who can no longer drive. The older adult calls GoGo Grandparent, then pushes a button to get an Uber or Lyft. When the senior needs to return home, pushing another button requests a ride back. They can also request an operator for help, get groceries or restaurant meals delivered, or speak to someone to schedule future needs. Meanwhile, family members can keep track of your movements. 

Physical and cognitive limitations can make it difficult or impossible to use a phone. What then? GoGo Grandparent has partnered with Google so services can be requested by voice via its Amazon Alexa voice assistant. Just download the Lyft or Uber app and add it to Alexa’s skills. It’s free to enable. GoGo Grandparent currently runs $9.99 a month and 27 cents per minute for operator services. 

Etkin added two new categories for 2020 alone as the market broadens. The U.S. Task Force on Research and Development for Technology to Support Aging Adults noted six major categories in its 2019 report, which serves to highlight the need for technological innovation in areas from public transportation to cognitive training. 

Older Adults Increasingly Online

You may be surprised to hear that the fastest-growing age group online is adults aged 50 and up, and 65% of that demographic is active on social media. That’s right, the vast majority of older adults are not technically illiterate. They are, rather, looking for products that help them take advantage of the technical revolution. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for such products as social isolation has hit older adults particularly hard.

"Older adults think the benefits of social technology greatly outweigh the costs and challenges of technology," says William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University. "And the use of this technology could benefit their mental and physical health over time.”

Add to that the pocket power of older adults. “The longevity economy is older adults, which starts at age 50 for most of us, and makes up a $7 trillion to $9 trillion economy,” says Joseph Coughlin, the director of the MIT AgeLab. “The 50-plus group is responsible for 70% of disposable income in the U.S. and the 60-plus group is responsible for 30% of wealth around the world.” That’s a lot of incentive to develop products aimed at older generations.