Boomer uptake of consumer health technology matters

category tags: 

Digital health tech is the answer – but what are the questions? What new gadgets and apps can make consumers take better care of their own health?  What are the gadgets and apps that help doctors take care of consumers?  Let’s assume that the combination of tech that helps consumers and doctors equals Digital Health.  In this emerging world, do doctors encourage consumers to give these new apps and gadgets a try? Consider the digital technology uptake among the worried well and the not-so-well boomer population – a giant and amorphous demographic blob that some marketers want to cultivate.  Even if we added those modifiers that help divide boomers into cohorts – words like caregiving, wealthy, unmarried, educated, grandparents, rural -- it is a challenge for innovators to peer through the just right Digital Health lens and see clearly who is targeted, what they need, and who will pay for the next new thing.

What’s an adoption trend versus rose-colored Google glasses? Let’s start with fitness trackers – used by 7 out of 10 adults.  Really? Oh yeah, not really.  Only 3% of the 50-64 age range are using an app or technology to track some aspect of their health.  If you were inclined to agree that there is a bubble -- to side with those who think wearable, trackable, app-centric health technologies represent one of the greatest trends – or one of the biggest bubbles of venture capital history.  Ah, but wait!  Perhaps 2014 is the year of that elusive inflection point – in which it seems that device experiments,  consumer health apps and investor optimism intersect.   

Is tech designed by the young, for the young -- wasted on the young? You remember that curse from Vinod Khosla – people under 35 make change happen and then, as a guy who can’t shut up, young CEOs adapt faster.  Fitbit CEO James Park is now 37, but fit Vinod’s desired profile when the product was launched in 2008. So let’s look at the Fitbit (never mind that rash problem) through the reading glass, not Google glass, lens of the baby boomer age range – age 50-64. Can’t really isolate that tiny button to see the number of steps out of the corner of that boomer eye? How about clipping it onto that no-belt workout outfit, keep track of it to keep it out of the washer – never mind get the data uploaded someplace back at the homestead.  That’s a tiny example (literally) of the disconnect between the designer and a willing-if-not-always-able market of boomers – who have the money, the need to better manage their health and the need for more steps.

Let’s launch a new website to focus on boomer health tech. It is time for an industry analyst to take a closer look at the wave of consumer health tech splashing onto the market. The current Aging in Place Technology Watch at ageinplacetech.com, will continue to focus on the issues and needs of the Real Senior – older adults age 75+. The site will continue to sort out the technologies that help enable the Real Seniors to age successfully in their homes of choice. Related news articles, research, trend reports and press releases – as well as blog posts and white papers – will reside there.  The new site, Boomer Health Tech Watch will focus on the various ‘xHealths’ – mHealth, Digital Health, Wireless Health, etc. – and how these segments can better serve and reflect the yet-to-be-senior, Baby Boomers in their 50’s and 60’s. The site will evolve over time -- growing with more content and more feedback. Please provide that feedback and -- please stay tuned to both!