A recent poll (PDF) from Revera, a leading provider of senior care and services, reveals that baby boomers want a better aging experience than their parents and grandparents had, particularly in regards to healthcare. Jeffrey Lozon, president and CEO of Revera, said, “We need to recognize that seniors of the future are not the same necessarily as seniors in the past. The system ultimately has to be more comprehensive, flexible and it has to clearly define what our society is going to do.”
More than 1,500 people over the age of 45 were surveyed online, and 85% of them were not content with their prospects for aging. The three priorities identified were to find ways to allow seniors to stay in their own homes longer, make the healthcare system easier to navigate, and provide access to more technology to enable independent living.
One technology advancement that could further independent living for seniors is an item from AT&T: clothing that tracks your vital signs and uploads the results to a Web portal. More specifically, the device would be a small module that attaches to the wearer’s clothing to track heart rate and body temperature, and so forth, then is easily removed and attached to your clothes for the next day.
AT&T has already begun selling things like pill containers that emit wireless reminders, “Amber Alert” child-tracking devices, as well as GPS-enabled dog collars. These new innovations are ways for the carrier to make more money off of its networks in addition to mobile phones.
The company sees the so-called “bio-tracking clothes” as particularly useful for senior citizens who want to remain in their own homes rather than moving to assisted-living facilities. Glenn Lurie, president of AT&T’s Emerging Devices division, said, “People want this kind of feedback about their health. Automatically pushing information to a vertically integrated site makes things easier.”
Another survey, from the Consumer Electronics Association, indicates that 36% of consumers would be interested in sending health data to their doctors via a wireless device. With this ability, 32% of respondents would then do a video consult with a doctor rather than an in-person visit.
Nicole Lewis, a reporter for InformationWeek, writes,
With regard to seniors, the research showed that older adults found apps to be a fairly new concept and few of those over 50 appreciated how technology devices could help them monitor, track, or manage their health and wellness […]
Users felt that the value of health devices and apps is their ability to show and analyze input data. If a service were available that provided recommendations based on their data, it would motivate positive changes in behavior.
In the Revera poll, 95% of seniors and 93% of boomers also cited improved access to buildings and other public spaces as a priority as they age. The concept of “universal design” could address these issues. The simplest explanation of the concept is that it provides for the most accessibility of spaces for people of all capabilities.
One technological advancement that could help architects and other designers understand the perspective of the older population is the Age Gain Now Empathy System, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Better known as AGNES, the suit simulates the effects of aging on the body.
Dennis Thompson of SecondAct explains,
Plastic bands that restrict movement. Glasses that make vision dull and yellowed. Shoes that throw the wearer off balance. Harnesses that make the body hunch over. Gloves that make fingers clumsy and awkward.
The suit was developed and refined by a team of engineers, doctors, ergonomics experts, and psychologists at MIT’s AgeLab, which focuses on quality of life issues for people aged 45 and older. “[AGNES is] meant to create an ‘aha!’ moment for the wearer, where they understand what it’s like to be old, and to help them understand what needs to be done for a product or service to make it more user-friendly for an aging population,” said Joseph Coughlin, director of the AgeLab. Examples of companies who have taken advantage of the suit include a consumer foods company, a car manufacturer, and a retail outlet.
You can see video of the AGNES suit in action below.