May 24, 2024

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Aging In Place Provides Lucrative Opportunity For Tech Companies

As more baby boomers enter their golden years and want to stay in their homes as long as possible, tech companies are capitalizing on a movement dubbed “aging in place.” It’s not a new trend, but tech solutions for it are just hitting the market with products that run the gamut.




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The tools used for aging in place have moved beyond grab bars for bathrooms and no-trip rugs. Now, the children of baby boomers want to use technology to monitor their parents’ health and wellness, to communicate with them and to help them be more mobile.

So now such devices as smart canes and motion sensors are making their way into the market. There are gadgets for fall detection along with motorized lifts to help seniors get on and off toilets. And there are improvements for traditional devices, such as newly authorized over-the-counter hearing aids and telehealth systems.

The numbers are telling youth-obsessed companies they can’t ignore this booming senior market. The economic activity of people over the age of 50 in the U.S. is now at $9.5 trillion a year, or roughly 46% of gross domestic product, according to AARP. And the figures are rising.

“There’s 10,000 people that turn 65 every day in the United States,” Andy Miller, senior vice president of innovation and product marketing at AARP, told Investor’s Business Daily. “It’s an enormous market that people are just now waking up to.”

Expanding Offerings For Aging In Place

Big Tech companies have taken notice of this growing market, comprised mostly of baby boomers. Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL) and Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) have created health-care divisions to address the overall market, including seniors.

Best Buy and Atrium Health are using technology such as monitoring and telehealth to offer seniors at-home care. (Atrium Health)

For instance, Amazon completed its $3.9 billion acquisition of One Medical in February. One Medical is looking to transform health care with its “human-centered, technology-powered model.” That includes simplifying the process of doctor appointments and providing 24/7 virtual care services, with Medicare patients a big focus.

Meanwhile, consumer electronics retailer Best Buy (BBY) — of all companies — is addressing the aging-in-place market through its Best Buy Health unit.

In March, Best Buy and Atrium Health announced they are developing new hospital-at-home offerings. The goal of the partnership is to deliver high-quality care to patients in the comfort of their own homes, while helping reduce emotional and financial burdens on patients and caregivers.

Best Buy added a care-at-home service in 2021 with its acquisition of Current Health, which brings together remote patient monitoring, telehealth and patient engagement into a single solution for health care providers.

“The whole field has just exploded,” Mary Furlong, chief executive of Mary Furlong and Associates, a leading authority on the longevity marketplace, told IBD. “The (baby) boomers at the top end are 77 this year and then there is 20 years of boomers to follow.”

Sandwich Generation Caring For Kids, Aging Parents

“Aging in place is all about being able to stay in your home and live out the rest of your life there rather than go into assisted living or some other facility,” AARP’s Miller said. “Our research shows that more than 75% of adults over 50 want to stay in their forever homes as they age.”

US population baby boomersHowever, many of those homes and their occupants aren’t “aging-in-place ready,” he said. In 2021, 36% of the U.S. population was 50 and older, or 119.6 million people, according to the Census Bureau.

When the first millennials turn 50 in 2030, AARP estimates the economic activity of the 50-plus population in the U.S. will rise to $12.3 trillion a year. And in 2050, when the first Gen Zers turn 50, the figure will reach $18 trillion, AARP says.

Gen Z is the “sandwich generation” that is now taking care of their aging parents as well as their children. And Gen Z is buying products from tech companies for all those age groups.

“We may be buying things for our kids but we’re also buying stuff to let Mom live in her home longer,” Miller said.

Aging In Place Is Two-Tiered Market

AARP forecasts that 41% of the U.S. population will be 50 and older by 2050, reaching 154.6 million people.

Uplyft tech companies
The Uplyft system allows users to transfer from bed to wheelchair without assistance. (Uplyft)

Aging in place is a two-tiered market, Furlong said. On one end are younger baby boomers. They’re generally healthy and want to stay healthy and vital as long as they can. On the other end are seniors who are frail, including those with chronic conditions that limit mobility.

For the latter, there are products like Uplyft, a seated self-transfer system between bed and wheelchair, which is available for preorder. And Dignity Lifts sells electric toilet seat lifts to prevent falls by seniors, starting at $999.

Children of senior baby boomers can keep tabs on their parents using “passive monitoring” technologies. These systems are less intrusive than using webcams to spy on your elderly parents. For instance, privately held Tellus sells a wall-mounted sensor system. It provides information on a parent’s activities in the home without using cameras or wearables.

Also, it records when seniors go to bed and wake up. And it checks how much time they spend in the bathroom and other rooms. Tellus also provides real-time alerts powered by artificial intelligence, including fall detection.

Security companies like ADT (ADT) and Alarm.com (ALRM) also are pursuing that opportunity.

Smart Home Devices Provide Assistance, Security

The aging-in-place market includes a vast array of smart home devices. The category includes smart speakers, smart lighting and smart thermostats. These devices can be controlled with voice commands or with a smartphone. Cost would depend on how many devices are linked to the system.

CAN Go Smart Cane tech companies
The CAN Go Smart Cane has location mapping and an activity tracker for its users. (CAN Go Smart Cane)

IGuard Home Solutions sells a motion sensor control device for $499. It shuts off the stove when it doesn’t see any motion in the kitchen for a full five minutes. The company says its iGuardStove has prevented about 640,000 potential kitchen fires.

Tech companies are even adding smarts to simple devices for seniors. For instance, the CAN Go Smart Cane has GPS location mapping, an LED flashlight, activity tracker and a built-in phone for emergency calling. It sells for $229.

“There are a lot of riches in the niches in the market,” Furlong said.

A core product for aging in place is the category of wearable medical alert systems. They’re made by ADT, Life Alert, Medical Guardian and others. They can take the form for pendants or wrist-worn devices.

Could Apple Watch Replace Medical Alert Devices?

Apple’s general purpose smartwatch, the Apple Watch, is encroaching on the market for medical alert devices. It has fall detection and can make emergency calls. Also, it tracks health vitals, like heart rate, as well as such activity as steps taken. The Apple Watch starts at $249.

Aging population baby boomersProducts from tech companies don’t have to be tailored for the senior market. But they should include elements of “ageless design,” AARP’s Miller said. Tech companies need to consider that many seniors have reduced vision, diminished hearing and poor dexterity.

A good example of ageless design is Apple’s iPad tablet. The device can be easily used by a 4-year old, 40-year-old or 80-year-old, Miller said.

Amazon recently added a feature called “Dialogue Boost” to select original shows on Amazon Prime Video. The setting boosts the volume of spoken dialogue relative to the background music and effects for people with diminished hearing. That’s in addition to subtitles.

Technology for aging in place generated significant buzz at the CES 2023 technology trade show in January in Las Vegas, Miller said.

“Age tech was center stage at CES this year,” he said. “It was the thing everybody was talking about.”

Follow Patrick Seitz on Twitter at @IBD_PSeitz for more stories on consumer technology, software and semiconductor stocks.

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