Senior Age Tech
Adults 65 years old and older are among the fastest-growing populations in the United States. And, seniors say they want to be as independent as possible as they age actively and gracefully. The good news is that older adults may achieve their goals with the help of technology designed specifically for them.
For more than a decade, tech firms, retailers, and entrepreneurs have been developing smart products to support seniors who want to live life as fully as possible in every stage of the aging process. It was the idea of “living fully” that inspired the term, “active aging,” and spurred the growth of what’s now called the “active aging industry,” which is primarily fueled by technology.
“We’re in the early innings of what’s going to be a very large market,” said Jake Nice, a principal in Nationwide Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in startups and pilots new technologies.
According to a 2019 study by the Consumer Technology Association, the active aging industry (which includes safety and smart-living technologies), is expected to triple from 2019 to 2022 to reach nearly $30 billion. Wellness and fitness technologies are expected to reach $900 million by 2022.
“We’re already seeing some really interesting ways technology is being used to help people as they age,” said Ben Jonash, a principal with Deloitte Consulting and co-author of The Future of Aging by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions,
The following are among the companies and their products getting attention in the active aging industry:
Carrie Shaw helps caregivers and health care professionals walk in the “virtual” shoes of older adults. Shaw, the founder of Embodied Labs, allows people who care for the elderly to use virtual reality headsets to immerse themselves in the world of older adults. Through simulations, the participants take on the persona of aging adults facing life and health challenges, such as macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The purpose of the virtual reality program is to allow caregivers, health care professionals, and others to see the issues that older adults face from another perspective and to help them navigate through their challenges. The program is only sold to businesses.
“Good morning,” ElliQ says to an older adult. “Would you like to go for a walk? The weather will be pleasant today.”
ElliQ is not a person but a “proactive cognitive artificial intelligence product,” better known as a “robot.” The smart robot and personal voice assistant can play music, say “good morning” in 117 different ways, play videos, remind seniors to take their medication, and can send and receive messages from an older adult’s family and friends.
Dor Skuler, co-founder and CEO of Intuition Robotics likes to call ElliQ a “sidekick for happier aging.” According to Skuler, the company was founded in 2016 to help older adults combat loneliness and social isolation.
Intuition Robotics has more than 100 home care providers, home health providers, and healthcare professionals subscribing to the program.
The company invites older adults to apply to the program and receive ElliQ free of charge. A power connection and Broadband Wifi are all that’s needed for ElliQ to operate.
Cats and dogs have long been faithful companions to individuals and families. Thanks to Ageless Innovation, there are now special kinds of cats and dogs that act as companions but do not require cleaning up after or need to go for walks. The company’s Joy For All Companion Pets are robotic and interact with humans just as “real” pets interact with their owners.
For example, after petting a companion cat, the robotic animal rolls over and can utter 32 different types of purring sounds. When stroking the lifelike coat of a Joy For All Companion Pet Pup, a senior can feel the robotic animal’s heartbeat. And when the pet owner speaks, the pup responds with a “woof,” thanks to “Barkback” technology.
Ted Fischer, co-founder and CEO of Ageless Innovation, says studies show that Joy For All Companion Pets is “an effective, nontraditional intervention in addressing loneliness among older adults.”
Neuro Rehab VR
Older adults who suffer a stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury, or a neurodegenerative disease usually undergo physical therapy, which can be repetitive and tedious.
Neuro Rehab VR aims to make physical therapy engaging, motivating, and fun by customizing a patient’s therapy needs through virtual technology.
Patients put on a virtual reality headset which places them in a range of situations based on the patient’s specific therapy needs and ability. One of the many exercises used is a grocery shopping simulation where patients take items off the shelves. The retail therapy simulation targets the upper extremity, functional reaching, and a range of motion while also working on balance, according to the company.
The patient’s physiological and kinematic responses are recorded and the patients’ progress is measured with scores and metrics over time.
Veena Somareddy, Neuro Rehab VR’s co-founder and chief technology officer, says the company wanted to make a physical therapy program more like a game so that they will stay with their physical therapy program longer.
“When people put on the headset, they forget about their pain and what they can’t do,” Somareddy said.
Toi Labs uses an unlikely source to learn more about the condition of a senior’s health. Vik Kashyap, the company’s founder, and CEO created a toilet seat called “TrueLoo.” The seat sits on top of a standard toilet seat and has sensors that can tell who is sitting on TrueLoo. The device can take the information from human waste and send it for analysis to determine if there are health problems that can land seniors in the hospital.
Kashyap says TrueLoo is being tested at senior living communities and hopes to roll it out to the general public after completion of a clinical study with four senior living communities in Northern California.
The traditional medical alert necklaces have been popular for years. But, some seniors are ready to switch from wearing an emergency medical pendant around their neck to wearing one on their wrist. So, VitalTech, a digital health platform, decided to give seniors an option with its VitalBand, a smartwatch that monitors falls, tracks vital signs, physical activity, and sleep quality, and also provides medication reminders.
When a wearer falls, the VitalBand sends an alert to a certified call center which dispatches an emergency response service. The wearer can also choose the device to contact family members. VitalBand is water-resistant, sweat-proof, and charges while the person is wearing the watch for 24/7 safety.