How Tech Can Disrupt Senior Living

CAST | February 21, 2019 | by Donna Childress

Technology supports trend toward increased independence and aging in place.

Recent survey findings indicated that technology has a powerful potential to disrupt senior living—as does older adults’ increased ability to remain independent and out of congregate housing until later in life.  
Almost 80% of survey respondents think technology, products, and services that allow consumers to be independent and proactive in their care, such as grocery delivery or wearable monitors, will have an extreme or large impact on the senior living market. “Senior Living Disruption Coming as Boomers Embrace Tech, Rely Less on Providers,” in Senior Housing News, shared the findings.
Architecture firm Perkins Eastman conducted the research and published “The State of Senior Living: An Industry Grappling with Autonomy.” In the survey, which attempts to forecast senior living’s future, approximately 200 C-suite leaders with nonprofit providers ranked four potentially disruptive developments:

  • Aging in the Community: Decentralized care and services (83%).
  • Technology: Artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality and home automation (76%).
  • Third Act: Alternative definitions of retirement focused on lifestyle, continued engagement (71%).
  • Paradigm Shifts: Related to climate, financial, and political change (63%).

"The striking insight from this survey," wrote the authors, "is the interest in alternatives and options that enable the individual to control their own destiny and chart their own path,” whether by accessing community services or creating communities that afford more control of housing and healthcare needs. The authors noted that disruptive forces are intertwined. For instance, technology will enable more aging in the community and decentralized care.
The report noted that the market has not fully embraced the power of change that technology can drive. Nearly 75% of the respondents said that telemedicine, smart home technology, and apps that support a sharing economy such as Uber/Lyft and grocery delivery, are extremely or very impactful. Yet driverless cars, social connections via apps, and care-delivering robotics were not seen as significant future disruptors.
Similarly, while the survey sees significant interest in new housing options that offer individual choice, the industry may not have embraced technologies that offer further autonomy and social connectivity, wrote the authors. For-profit providers are said to be far ahead in their technology use.
The report underscored how important it is to providers to keep older adults self-sufficient and self-trusting. While the competition between providers is significant, the real competition for residents is with their homes in the community, said the report. Providers can compete by offering services with increased options, whether at home or in a community, and a care model that prioritizes the senior’s social well-being.
Meanwhile, an AARP survey found that almost 132 million Americans aged 50 or more years will spend upwards of $84 billion a year on technology products by 2030. Privacy and security issues may attract much of that spending, according to a recent article in McKnight’s Senior Living. Nearly one in five survey respondents indicated low confidence in their online safety.
The AARP survey also found that 23% of older adults are embracing technology-enabled lifelong learning, such as earning certificates or degrees online and using how-to tutorials. Adoption of digital personal assistants is also on the rise; nearly one in seven Americans over age 50 own a device like Google Home or Amazon Alexa.