Many of us have only been able to see our elderly relatives through screens for the past two years, seeing them age and trade physical distance for their safety. The epidemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of the elderly more than anything else, the tech community as a whole, including entrepreneurs, investors, and journalists, needs to pay greater attention to “age-tech.” Aging populations are not restricted to a few nations, and “age-tech” is not a niche industry. According to a recent World Health Organization research, one in every six individuals would be 60 or older by 2030, with the number of people aged 80 or older anticipated to treble to 426 million between 2020 and 2050.
“While population aging began in high-income nations (for example, in Japan, 30% of the population is already over 60 years old), it is currently low- and middle-income countries that are seeing the most change,” according to the research. “By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population over the age of 60 will be living in low- and middle-income nations.” “Globalization, technical innovations (e.g. in transportation and communication), urbanization, migration, and changing gender norms are all impacting the lives of older people in direct and indirect ways,” the WHO report continues. A public health response must assess present and future trends and formulate policies appropriately.”
Tech behemoths have begun to capitalize on the increasing demographic’s potential by developing new services for their existing platforms and gear. For example, Amazon launched Alexa Together earlier this month, which transforms Alexa devices into caregiver tools with features such as calling for help, an emergency helpline, fall detection, a remote assist option to manage device settings, and activity feed so family members, can see if someone has been less active than usual. Meanwhile, Google began testing a simpler Nest Hub Max interface at retirement homes last year in the hopes of making residents feel less alone during lockdowns.
Startups that specialize in age-tech, on the other hand, pique my curiosity. It is encouraging to see the number of firms creating technology for the elderly when I cover hardware events. The majority of next week’s CES announcements are still concealed, but I will be covering age-tech startups during the show. Nobi’s smart light, an inconspicuous ceiling lamp that warns caretakers when a fall or unusual movements are detected and automatically illuminates the floor when someone stands up to walk, was one of the most exciting items at the most recent CES in January 2021.
There were also a number of age-tech presentations, including one from the AARP Innovation Lab, the nonprofit’s business accelerator program, which included nine startups. Many of them focused on assisting older individuals who wanted to “age in place,” or stay in their homes rather than going into nursing homes.
Wheel Pad, a company that creates accessible, modular work and home spaces that adapt to existing structures and sites, Gibrio, a scale that is used at home to estimate whether users are at risk of falling. In addition, Falco Solutions, a company that develops Apple Watch apps and wearables, including jewelry, to help family members and other caring users check-in.
However, hardware can only take you so far. Caregivers’ needs are also considered by startups all across the world. Burnout among caregivers is a serious issue, but technology may help. Homage, for example, which is now operating in Singapore and Malaysia, wants to expand into five other countries over the next two years.
It creates a profile of each caregiver and works with nurses to analyze how they are able to do key activities, such as manual transfer procedures, in order to assess caregivers and assist match them with patients. All of this information sent into the matching engine, which helps families and patients find carers more quickly.