Home to Stay

‘Aging in place’ is the goal of nine out of 10 boomers, requiring high tech, smart building … and the perfect in-home caregiver.

Jimmy Magahern | Feb 3, 2014, 1:31 p.m.

At last month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, silver was the new black. Beyond all the flashy curved TVs and in-dash car computers, two of the biggest attractions were the Digital Health Summit, showcasing new health and fitness gadgets like wearable health trackers and real-time remote monitoring devices, and the so-called “Silvers Summit,” focusing on tech innovations designed more specifically to meet the growing needs of the aging boomer population.

In both showcases, the bulk of the new products introduced were technologies aimed at keeping older adults living independently at home longer. It’s a hot trend today in both tech and architecture, where practices like incorporating handrails in shower stalls and other unobtrusive accessibility features around the house are part of smart “aging in place” design.

And for good reason: according to the latest data from the Center for Aging Services Technologies, 89 percent of the country’s baby boomer generation (those roughly 78 million born between 1946 and 1964) say they prefer to live out their golden years at home, rather than go to assisted living communities—even if they or their spouse comes down with a debilitating illness.

In addition, some 80 percent of boomers say they’re willing to pay $100 or more per month for technologies that will help them live longer and more independently at home—and 90 percent of them are counting on technology to develop apps for that, and soon.

Michael Sumner, CEO of the Mesa-based in-home care provider Beech Home Care, was one of the more than 150,000 in attendance at this year’s CES, and says he was blown away by many of the new digital health gadgets on display.

“I think by the end of 2014, technology will be starting to have a dramatic influence on home care delivery,” says the London-educated businessman, who still speaks with a commanding British accent. “Things like live monitoring systems, and devices that provide data back to the care agency on how well the client is doing. I think every home care company is certainly looking at the impact of technology, and wondering, ‘What if we can use that technology to allow people to stay in their own homes as long as they choose to do so?’”

But Sumner, who also serves as president of the Arizona Non-Medical Home Care Association (AZNHA), a coalition that maintains credentialing standards and ethical guidelines for companies providing in-home care, believes tech alone will not be enough to fulfill the boomer dream of never leaving their well-appointed pads.

“At the moment, it’s all about pulling it all together into a service offering where we combine the technology and the care together,” he says. “Because either one on its own is not enough. You have to integrate both into a single offering. And that’s where all the exciting developments are going to come. It’s all very well and good for these devices to be able to monitor your health. But what does all of that mean, beyond just a lot of indecipherable data? How can I turn that into a service to make you safer and happier in your own home?”

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