Challenging Innovators to Match Offerings to the Needs of Older Adults

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Advice to Innovators who target older adults. This week this new website, Boomer Health Tech Watch (xhealthtech.com),  officially reveals the first report under the Boomer Health Tech Watch umbrella. Sponsored by AARP's Health@50+ team under the leadership of Senior Vice President Jody Holtzman, Challenging Innovators is the result of 21 interviews with entrepreneurs and experts on the challenges and pitfalls of designing for an amorphous population that reflects multiple addressable markets, based on need. So what does the report imply?

Competitions sound good – next step, vetting submissions.  We are living in a brave new world of competitions everywhere -- generating true believers -- developers caught up in their buzz and brouhaha. Sponsors are excited when there are multiple submissions, leaving the best and the brightest still standing at the end of a competition for innovators.  Examine the next step and the next – what happens when there are too many competitions, vague criteria for eligibility, and today's reality of minimal vetting? In the evolutionary transition to a competition-based survival of the winners, criteria will be formulated that must be met in order to enter a competition or gain funding or presence in an accelerator.  Up for consideration – tangible health cost reduction – quantified; viable benefit to keeping older adults out of assisted living and nursing homes. So innovators pass these tests – next up, do the products work as advertised?  And who will validate that they do?

Crowdfunding – too much noise for the media.  Beware media exhaustion and saturation. The GoGo factor and the rev-up from Kickstarter eventually wind down.  As always in the tech industry, what goes up will descend. The volume of crowdfunding racket will overwhelm news media, a shrinking resource under the best of conditions. But without news media, is a crowd really a crowd?  What will happen when virtually none of the crowdfunding crowd actually is funded enough to create a stir?  And the stir – among whom will it matter? 

Smartphone size and unwieldiness reinvigorate PERS industry. An irony-to-be awaits: look around at the size of phones – uh, er, phablets, tablets, or whatever. The bigger they get, the greater the possibilities for PERS vendors to wake up and smell the opportunity. What is it?  Wellness and communication will make PERS unique and viable in the age of smartphones.  Instead of marketing safety, security, or related, why not market convenience of communication for the growing majority of older adults who live alone and are the worried well?