The USA has over 54 million citizens and residents aged 65 and up. By 2034, that population will outnumber children in the United States. It’s a rapidly growing demographic with unique interests and needs that aren’t yet well served by today’s technology options.
However, the market for technology for seniors, or silver tech, is rapidly picking up momentum. From small start-ups to tech giants, enterprises are responding to consumer demand and economic pressures. They’re creating technology that’s increasingly sophisticated and affordable, though not always accessible. Here are five major trends that are in play in the silver tech market today.
Affordable, Multifunctional And Commonplace
This long-lasting trend is still going strong. A competitive tech market is bringing forth a wave of devices and software that are more functional and affordable than ever. These include:
- Lightweight and unobtrusive wearables.
- Tech that can detect or even predict falls.
- Small, inexpensive sensors that can be placed throughout the home.
- Touch and voice activated smart home hubs.
- An increasing number of digital ways to connect with other people.
Lower prices and greater market penetration mean that more people than ever are aware of their tech options. Seniors are not as technology-resistant as the old stereotype suggests, and they’ve been around life alert systems now for decades. More and more, they are getting curious about what today’s tech can do for them.
Far Beyond ChatGPT
ChatGPT has dominated recent conversation about artificial intelligence. However, this verbose chatbot is just one horizon of current AI research. Tech companies are developing artificial intelligence for a variety of other healthcare applications. The right program may help doctors sift through health screeners and medical tests, identifying conditions more quickly and more accurately than a human can.
AI is also being explored for more holistic wellness applications. For instance, robotic care companions like ElliQ and Grace are being developed specifically for seniors. These humanoid robots may be able to facilitate social interaction, reduce loneliness, and encourage seniors in their hobbies and interests.
Bridging The Caregiving Gap
Surveys suggest that 88% of adults aged 50 and up live in their own home or with family and hope to age in place. However, there are several big hurdles to this goal. Trained home care workers are costly to hire, especially when these services aren’t covered by health insurance.
There is also a significant shortage of professional caregivers across the states, and this shortfall is expected to worsen. Finally, with a projected average life expectancy of 77 years, millions of seniors are discovering that their savings aren’t enough to pay for the services they need.
Family and friends are stepping into this gap. In fact, over 50 million Americans are providing care to older loved ones. These unpaid, untrained caregivers often have to support the seniors while raising children, advancing their careers, and more. Silver tech offers a number of possible solutions for caregivers’ financial and scheduling puzzles.
These include smart doorbells, web cameras, in-home monitoring, wearables that send the elder’s location data to the caregiver, and apps that facilitate a senior’s daily tasks such as shopping and transit.
Policy Makers Support Silver Tech
The federal government has already taken concrete steps toward supporting senior tech use with the Affordable Connectivity Program. This program offers discounted internet services and discounts toward a laptop, computer or tablet purchase.
Meanwhile, the Family Caregiving Advisory Council has recommended further support for assistive technology, and tools including health monitoring devices, accessible smart homes, and more. If their recommendations are accepted, more programs may be available for seniors and caregivers with limited means.
Medicare is also helping to expand the silver tech market. A growing number of Medicare Advantage plans support tech-enabled home services, hearing aids, patient monitoring, and telehealth services. This trend started from the Covid-19 pandemic, but with a growing body of hard data on the efficacy of silver tech, coverage will likely continue to expand.
Technology Is Still Tricky
The silver tech market is noticeably lagging when it comes to widely available tech training and support. Much of the tech available is hard to set up and confusing to use. Tutorials and owner manuals, when they exist at all, tend to assume that the user is familiar with similar technology, and understands technical terms, etc.
Caregivers may struggle to set up the tech, and seniors often get frustrated trying to use it. Companies developing silver tech need to keep these accessibility issues in mind when developing their technology. They may also need to directly invest in tech support, vendor training, and user education, instead of assuming someone else will do this for the customers.
For years, seniors have been an under-served area of the tech market. Developers are now working to create tech solutions for this population. Seniors, caregivers and other stakeholders are all curious about the capabilities of this new technology, studying everything from specialized AI to affordable wearables, to smart homes.
But actual adoption has been spotty. Although the technology side of silver tech is rapidly growing, the human angle is lagging behind. Some tech, like telehealth, has been widely embraced. However, even highly motivated individual users can struggle when exploring new devices’ capabilities. Tech companies may win by streamlining and simplifying what they develop, along with creating programs for tech support and end user training.
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