The confluence of two powerful developments— extraordinary growth in the population of older adults and the acceleration of technology such as M2M—will transform the landscape of healthy and independent living as we get older. Today over 100 million Americans are age 50 and older. They comprise a market that would rank as third largest in the world, behind only the US and China, with over $7 trillion dollars a year in economic activity. People 65+ represent about 13 percent of the US population. By 2030, they will make up almost 20 percent.
Recognizing this demographic trend is critical to understanding the context in which some estimate there will be about 50 billion connected devices on a worldwide basis by 2020. Yet the older adult market has been routinely bypassed when it comes to transformative disruptions that involve technology. That attitude needs to change—and we believe it will, to the benefit of people 50+, as well as engineers, entrepreneurs, and investors.
In the interest of generating greater insight into the older adult market—and spurring private sector collaboration in meeting the unaddressed needs of this huge market—we offer the following projections and principles for success.
When we look at the longevity economy—with growth driven by the growing population of older adults—we see seven principal areas of opportunity for markets related to health and wellness alone—including areas in which M2M technology will play a role over the next five to 10 years.
An analysis by AARP’s strategic intelligence team in concert with the market research firm Parks Associates identified these seven areas as offering the best investment opportunities for breakthrough technologies, innovative products, and disruptive services. These opportunities are rooted in the fact that the overwhelming majority of older adults want to live independently at home.
The following are the prime areas of opportunity we see. We believe the potential adoption of new products and services in these areas can generate over $20 billion in revenues by 2019.
Medication information, reminder, tracking tools, and compliance services
Vital sign monitoring
Health sensors, diagnostic services, enabling technologies and solutions
Emergency Detection and Response
Home Sensors, PERS/fall detection, location tracking, activity monitoring
Fitness devices, apps, programs, enabling solutions
Aging with Vitality
Hearing and vision; preventive aging care; cognitive and brain health, and everyday tools and services
Diet and Nutrition
Nutrition content and education, diet and nutrition tracking tools, management programs, meal plan/delivery/cooking solutions
Behavioral and Emotional Health
Companionship solutions, support group community, behavioral modification/ self-help solutions, and stress/emotion management/therapies.
New Connections, New Possibilities
• We believe the older adult market for healthy living will be defined by several emerging synergies. Market silos—home automation, home services, health care—will overlap.
• Fragmented solutions will coalesce, leading to more compelling models for consumer engagement. An example here is the melding of remote monitoring, medication adherence and social engagement in care giving solutions.
• Owners of residences for older adults will use networks to connect like- minded people and neighborhoods in healthy, sustainable communities that accommodate an older population.
• Increased adoption of home monitoring for health through connected devices will become more appealing as it increases convenience, improves outcomes, reduces hospital readmissions, and improves personal and societal health care costs.
• Wearables powered by higher capacity batteries will enable new uses in or away from the home. Health and fitness wearables will converge to deliver information to a home health hub.
• Smart floors will be able to detect changes in gait and movement patterns.
• Look for an integrated network of connected objects and software, brought to life by a clear mission: actively caring for consumers’ physical and mental well-being, in and out of their homes, and providing connections to loved ones.
For those who develop and market products in these areas that involve M2M solutions, we think the following guiding principles can prove useful:
• While M2M is based on machines speaking to each other, let’s remember it’s important to talk and listen to the consumer. That may seem obvious, but it is often the missing element.
• M2M solutions need to be affordable, accessible, and comprehensible.
• In many cases, design and aesthetics still limit usability among older consumers. Why just target younger people where markets may already be saturated when millions of others would benefit from cutting-edge technology more adapted to their use?
• At the same time, let’s remember that comfort in and competence with technology is hardly static within age cohorts. Today’s 50-year-olds will be 75 in 2040 and, on the whole, more tech-savvy than the average 75-year-old today. In addition, there are many 75-year-olds now—late and early adopters—who are skilled and interested in technology.
• Amidst a sea of data, if M2M technology doesn’t provide timely and actionable knowledge, it’s not a solution.
• Like anyone else, older adults want to feel they are in control. A person being monitored can easily feel she is no longer in charge of her own life. People do not want to give up independence and dignity.
• They want connected devices to be empowering, not diminishing. Their preferred frame of reference is not about being sick and stuck; it’s about independent living.
• One key to feeling in control is having one’s privacy respected. The tremendous growth in biometric devices, trackers, and sensors, in and around the home, has not yet been matched by accompanying innovation in consumer behavioral science and data analytics. When behavioral science and data analytics are more broadly applied, privacy solutions will become even more important. The growth of M2M technology must be accompanied by the adoption and implementation of standards for secure storage and transmission of data. This should include a robust, accessible, and transparent market for digital security.
In summary, the older adult market for healthy living, with M2M solutions playing an important role, is enormous yet still largely untapped. Succeeding in this market will require not only technological acumen, but also sensitivity to behavioral constraints on adoption. That includes a nuanced understanding and response to the strong desire for independent living and control.