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Wearables are booming for Boomers

By Jen Quinlan / April 4, 2014


Wearables are booming for Boomers

Boys and girls of corporate America, it’s time to seriously respect your elders. According to the World Health Organization, the 60+ population will double from 11% (605 million) to 22% (2 billion) between the year 2000 and 2050. The United States 60+ population is currently made up of about 77.3 million boomers. This equates to about 25% of our country’s population. With the current US life expectancy closing in on 80 years old, it’s time for businesses to start pandering to Boomers as much as they do Millennials. This goes double for companies in the healthcare sector.

Aging segments

Now that we’ve established that the aging market is huge, let’s break down some sub-segments. According to Transgenerational.org, an industrial design organization that aims to “inspire, promote, and encourage human-friendly ‘transgenerational design’ that accommodates people of all ages and abilities,” there are several age brackets within the 60+ demographic:

  • The Young Old (65-74)
  • The Old Old (74-84)
  • The Oldest Old (84+)

Each of these segments contains a bounty of unique needs just waiting to be fulfilled by tech innovations. Nielsen Research breaks the Boomer audience down even further, dividing the demographic into 8 categories using lifestyle criteria like marital status, offspring and education level. Whether you stick to Transgenerational’s three age brackets or dig a little deeper like Nielsen, it’s quite clear that the Boomer generation is full of diversity, which means even more opportunity.

Boomer trends, wearable trends

As Boomers age, they will demand products and services that help them maintain an active lifestyle, health and wellness, and independence. In the wearables industry, the following trends will spark an influx of products and services to address the Boomers’ needs:

Staying active

Americans 55+ are the fastest-growing age group among gym members, up more than 266% since 1987 according to an IBISWorld report. This discovery has prompted gyms like Nifty after Fifty to woo Boomers by focusing on low-impact cardio machines and playing ‘oldies’ music over the speakers. Another survey by Del Web showed that 50% of Boomers expect to work at least part-time once they retire, keeping them mentally and physically well into their 60s and 70s.

The image of seniors being weak and sedentary is not an accurate portrayal of the younger portion of the 60+ crowd. This is an important consideration for activity-tracker manufacturers to keep in mind when formulating their marketing strategy and product designs. Ignoring this segment could be a costly error.

Aging at home

According to the National Association of Realtors, 80% of Boomers own a home—compared to 69% of the general population. Additionally, they intend to stay in their home as they age. Per AARP’s ‘Fixing to Stay’ study, 9 out of 10 seniors remain in the same residence where they retire.

All signs and studies point to Boomers having a strong desire to live independently within their own homes, leaving plenty of room in the market for products and services that help our aging population update their homes to fit their needs. For wearables, solutions that help monitor their activities of daily living (ADLs) and provide alerts to loved ones in emergency situations can help them achieve this independence goal.

Getting techy

Believe it or not, Boomers are a big portion of the smartphone segment. According to a Pew Research Center study, 81% of younger Boomers (born between 1955 and 1964) and 76% of older boomers go online with their device. Of this surprisingly large number of older Internet users, 38% to 42% of them use social networking, 20% of which use social media sites as a source of healthcare information.

But smartphones aren’t the only mobile devices Boomers are utilizing. This age segment is also 5 times as likely to own an iPad or other tablet as the general population. Grandma and grandpa are no longer afraid of technology. As hardware and software continue to become more intuitive, seniors will feel increasingly more confident using and purchasing mobile devices. Will companies answer the call?

Solutions to watch

GE / Intel – Care Innovations

These two mega companies joined forces to create a technology division established to serve the aging population’s needs. Their product suite ranges from healthcare monitoring apps to at-home alert systems. I will note that I heard from a previous employee of Care Innovations that there was already a large round of layoffs, suggesting that GE and Intel were perhaps a little too early in serving this market.

Care Predict

For $160, Care Predict offers a home-monitoring solution that includes a wrist wearable (albeit, a visually unattractive one) coupled with 4 Beacons to be placed in designated zones of the user’s dwelling space. The solution gathers “tempos” or a baseline readings for what the user does on an average day of the week. When there is an outlier, like “Mom has been in the kitchen for 12 hours after 9PM,” an alert is sent to loved ones or caretakers responsible for looking after the individual. Although this solution can do the trick for at-home monitoring, it appears to be worthless once the user walks out the door. In turn, this product isn’t ideal for more active seniors or those suffering from dementia.

Lively

Lively’s solution also involves sensors for designated areas of the home, but without the need to strap on a wearable device. The Lively sensors are placed throughout the house and the data generated by their daily activities is captured in a hub that aggregates info and presents it in a dashboard available to the user and her family. One advantage of this system is they have a sensor that is placed on the user’s key ring, making the technology relevant even when the Boomer is out and about.

Scanadu

The Scanadu health monitor is at the forefront of bridging the gap between the doctor’s office and your home, but don’t take my word for it. As the Scanadu site explains, “Imagine the tools of an emergency room from the comfort of your living room.” This portable scanner takes medical-grade biometric readings with nothing more than your thumb and pointer finger. The information can then be sent to your doctor for analysis while you go about your day. This is another great way in which aging Boomers can maintain their independence without putting their well being at risk.

Philips Lifeline Alert

The Philips Lifeline Alert system has been a market leader in emergency-detection wearables since 1974, which was probably the last time the device was updated. Although the Lifeline Alert system is still incredibly useful, there are plenty of ways Philips could provide a more discreet technology, versus having a product that looks like a soap on a rope hanging around your neck. If Philips doesn’t miniaturize their technology ASAP, a competitor is destined to swoop in and steal their market share.

What’s good for Boomers is great for business

As Boomers age, technology can represent an effective way to support their active lifestyles and desire for independent living. The challenge will be whether companies can design products that will appeal to their tastes, yet combat their natural desire to question authority. It will be interesting to see whether activity trackers will be the first category of wearables to appeal to this age group, or if health monitoring solutions will capture their sensibilities first. Regardless of which technology wins, some insightful entrepreneurs stand to make a lot of money.


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