September 6, 2016
Texas Medical Center News
Christine Hall

People past the half century mark are not as technologically challenged as younger generations might assume.

A recent AARP study found that many individuals 50 and older use smartphones and tablets. As a result, people in that demographic are interested in improving their health using digital health technologies.

The AARP study, “2016 Health Innovation Frontiers,” estimates that of the $102 billion in market revenue over the next four years, $34 billion will be in new revenue opportunities from health and wellness technology across nine separate markets, including medication management, care coordination, cognitive health and social wellbeing.

“While people aged 50 to 75 are buying standalone technology like Fitbits and activity trackers, the big takeaway is that entrepreneurs are selling peace of mind to baby boomers when they should be focusing on the boomers’ parents and what is important to them,” said Jody Holtzman, AARP’s senior vice president for market innovation.

But while most players in the marketplace are focused on selling a product, family members want to give their older loved ones some peace of mind.

“We will spend whatever to protect our parents, and that said, you have to get the OK from my mother to put the product in her house,” Holtzman added. “The conversation is not about my peace of mind because she will tell me to ‘Stick it.’ A conversation with my mother will be about the things that are important to her—like freedom, control, independence and staying connected to family, neighbors, friends and the community.”

A big surge in telemedicine could also benefit the 50+ crowd, said Jason Burnett, Ph.D., who co-directs The Texas Elder Abuse & Mistreatment Institute. “A lot of information that is not available during clinic visits … will become available by being able to assess the patient in their home it will be comparable to a house call. Couple this approach with mobile health applications or in-home health monitoring technology and you have a virtual home clinic of sorts.”

Here are four health tech innovations tailored to individuals 50 and older:

This mobile health platform helps doctors, patients and caregivers communicate in real time. Caregivers can alert providers instantly about care issues—including the timing of meals and medicine—and create a “village” of family support to share duties and information. Clinicians and researchers can view a patient’s status and monitor the health of patients they’ve referred to specialists.

Jitterbug smartphone
This simple smartphone from GreatCall offers large letters, easy navigation, and built-in health and safety apps.

To simplify communication between health care providers, caretakers and patients, companies like Caremerge will manage activities, connect family and coordinate care. Caremerge offers an easy-to-use mobile and web-optimized software that is HIPAA compliant.

Posit Science
This company has created brain training software, including brain fitness games that help with word retrieval, memory and mental improvement. In a study of older adults, the company found that brain exercise cut the long-term risk of dementia nearly in half.