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After decades of denial, pandemic is making Minnesota baby boomers feel their age

By Kevyn Burger Special to the Star Tribune

Baby boomers, the generation that refuses to age, might have met their match in the coronavirus.

Marilyn and Juan Galloway exchanged a look that many married-with-children couples might recognize.

Their 22-year-old daughter had just dropped an unintentional bombshell, one that left them equal parts amused and wounded.

“She said, ‘If you guys get COVID, you’ve lived your lives,’ ” said Marilyn, of White Bear Lake. “She was dead serious, like, ‘You’re elderly and at the end of the road.’ We were stunned. We’re 55 and 63. We run, golf and bike. We’re more active than our kids. At the age that my grandmother wore a housecoat, I spiked my hair and dyed it purple.”

For baby boomers, it seems that COVID-19 has done what self-denial and evidence to the contrary has been unable to do: make them feel old.

For the generation whose youthful battle cry was “Don’t trust anyone over 30” and who prided themselves on remaining relevant as the years accumulated, being lumped in with the cohort regarded as frail and vulnerable has come as a shock.

“The pandemic has been a reckoning for baby boomers,” said Scott Zimmer, a speaker and trainer for Bridgeworks, a Wayzata consulting company that advises businesses on generational dynamics.

Based on sheer size, the 76 million American boomers, now between ages 56 and 74, have been courted by marketers since their postwar arrival. They have reframed every life stage they’ve passed through and were in the process of rewriting the script for their retirement years when the coronavirus arrived and stripped away their pretensions.

“They retain a youthful spirit and don’t want to slow down like previous generations. They take on encore careers and find new activities to be passionate about,” Zimmer said. “Now they’re forced to acknowledge that they’re not invincible. Even if they’re in great shape, they can’t deny that their age puts them in greater danger if they catch the virus.”

Dings and Dents

Writer Bill Souder’s upcoming biography of novelist John Steinbeck is titled “Mad at the World.”

That could also describe the 70-year-old author’s feeling about the way his age group is characterized.

“ ‘Seniors.’ ‘Elderly.’ I don’t like those terms. ‘Your sunset years.’ The labels they attach feel like they are trying to erase you. The message is that when you get older than a certain age, you’re in this other category. You are diminished, a fossil,” he said. “I don’t belong in that club.”

Souder has preferred to define himself by his activities rather than his age.

“I ride my bike, I still wade a trout stream. Last year I got a new hunting dog to trudge through the forest and fields with me. I do the same things I did when I was 40, but a little slower,” he said. “I’m like a golf ball. I’ve got dings and dents, a little asthma, a little heart disease.”

Since the arrival of the virus, Souder’s pre-existing conditions, previously regarded as minor and manageable, have prompted him to act with caution. He’s isolating in his home in Washington County in the company of his wife, their adult son who’s quarantining at home following a furlough and Sasha the wire-haired pointing griffon.

“At a certain age you are at an elevated risk and you have to live your life differently,” he admitted. “The science is clear. I can’t spin it.”

Ageism at the Root

For many boomers, the pandemic is revealing, even cementing, some long-held negative stereotypes associated with aging.

“They are experiencing ageism with the assumption that a number — their age — is the defining marker,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, a national association of nonprofit providers of aging services. “They may have experienced ageism in the workplace, but not in their day-to-day lives. They’re seeing how the contributions of older adults are undervalued and underappreciated.”

Age is just a number, but how that number is perceived is subjective. As people get older, the definition of “old” changes. In a Pew Research Center study, only 21% of those between the ages of 65 and 74 said they felt old, and just 35% of those 75 and older self-identified that way.

Advances in medical science in the past half-century have created a longevity revolution that is giving Americans not only longer life spans, but more years of good health. Still, anyone north of 55 is often lumped into the same age category.

Lori Bitter believes that happens out of “ignorance or laziness.”

The president of the Business of Aging, a California consultancy that advises companies marketing to mature consumers, Bitter thinks the older demographic needs to be sliced thinner.

“There’s not enough understanding that 65 and 85 are vastly different, just as people who are 50 and those who are 65 are nowhere in the same territory. Some of the language used for this vast, diverse group is ridiculous,” she said.

“Companies and others trying to speak to the different ends of the cohort need to distinguish between them,” she said.

It’s a fine point that the pandemic does not take into account.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that “the greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older,” the CDC also generalizes with the statement that “As you get older, your risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases.”

That means that in the foreseeable future, taking the threat of the virus into consideration may cause baby boomers to live more constricted lives.

“We really don’t want to get it, so we are being conservative,” said Souder. “We don’t touch our kids. We sit in the backyard. All bets are off on when that will change. But I’m not bedridden, I don’t have one foot in the grave. I’m here and a high-mileage version of myself.”

Kevyn Burger is a Minneapolis-based freelance broadcaster and writer.

This article is originally featured in StarTribune.

Media Release: Entrepreneurs In $7 Trillion Longevity Market Learn Insights On Investors, Distribution And Marketing At What’s Next Longevity Business Summit

 

 

Entrepreneurs in $7 Trillion Longevity Market Learn Insights On

Investors, Distribution and Marketing at What’s Next Longevity Business Summit

Conference Keynoted by Expert in Aging, Ken Dychtwald;

Powerhouse Speakers from AARP, NIA, Ziegler Link·Age, Home Instead

 

ATLANTA, January 30, 2020 – The What’s Next Boomer Longevity Summit kicks off its 17th year as the premier curator of 300 thought leaders in aging – this year here in the ATL – to network and learn about the trends, innovations and opportunities addressing the consumerism and needs of adults age 50+.  The one-day conference will feature power-packed panels on the conference theme of “Mobility, Memory, Money and Marketing,” all focused on capitalizing on the $7.6 trillion longevity economy.

Executive produced by Mary Furlong & Associates (MFA), the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit is known for delivering an expert forecast for success in entrepreneurship. Attendees will learn from panelists such as investors Ziegler Link·Age, Nationwide Ventures and Portfolia on how to obtain funding; opportunities in deal-making with distribution partners such as Home Instead; customer insights and market research trends from top research agencies, innovative programs driving dementia care and brain health and more. This year’s keynote address, “The Next Wave: How Boomer Retirees Will Redefine Money, Consumerism, Family, Work, Housing, Mobility, Health and Success” will be delivered by one of the visionaries in aging, Ken Dychtwald, author and co-founder of AgeWave.

“I’m looking forward to sharing my latest ideas on which industries, products, and services will dominate the emerging longevity marketplace—many of which are hiding in plain sight,” said Dychtwald. “I’ll be covering everything from medical technologies on the horizon that have the potential to dramatically transform health and aging – to how aging Boomers’ time affluence will re-define the travel and leisure, housing, education, media, and financial services industries.”

In addition, author Maddy Dychtwald who is co-founder of AgeWave, will moderate an inspirational panel of business women discussing female economic influence and fiscal makeovers for 2020 and beyond.

Attendees learn trends and insights, but also valuable business coaching such as how to scale a business, leveraging senior housing and transportation deals, delivering for home as the new health hub, using emerging technology including VR, Voice First and AI to change consumer habits and enhance workforce development, understanding fintech and privacy issues, changes in  MedicareAdvantage reimbursement models, how to incorporate aging vitality and caregiver wellness into a business model, marketing success using content development and social media, designing with aging in mind and more.

What’s Next Longevity Business Summit Comes to the A to Focus on Longevity Economy Trends

“For 17 years we have been diving into markets in longevity and we see 2020 as an important milestone where women are at the epicenter of purchasing power globally as well as building innovative businesses to address an aging society,” said Mary Furlong, a successful entrepreneur and author in aging who has made the What’s Next conferences the must-attend events in the longevity economy. “Knowing what priorities investors have for funding, how to build distribution partner pipelines, building a business based on strong research and how to create and leverage innovations in marketing are the cornerstones of what our event delivers for attendees.”

What’s Next Longevity Business Summit is co-produced by Lori Bitter, founder of The Business of Aging, and Sherri Snelling, CEO of Caregiving Club and has been held concurrent with the American Society of Aging’s annual Aging in America conference for the last 17 years. This important partnership offers attendees both conferences: one a comprehensive look at aging, the other is the Summit’s select smaller learning and networking event of thought leaders in longevity. The Summit lead sponsors include: AARP Innovation Labs, Great Call, Ageless Innovation, CareLinx, VitalTech, Medterra CBD, Business of Aging, Susan Davis International, Caregiving Club, iN2L, Hamilton CapTel, Home Instead, myFamilyChannel, SilverRide, Outpatient, Noboscu Technology, Nationwide, Portfolia, Embodied Labs, Caremerge, Stay Smart Care and Thrive. See the event agenda and full list of speakers and sponsors at: boomersummit.com

Media Contact:

Phyllis Weiss – Weiss Communications, Inc.

weiss@weiss-communications.com

# # #

About Mary Furlong/Mary Furlong & Associates

Founded in 2003, Mary Furlong & Associates (MFA) is a strategy, business development and marketing company. A serial  entrepreneur, Mary founded SeniorNet.org, and ThirdAge Media (acquired by Ancestry.com), prior to MFA. For 17 years, Mary has produced the industry leading What’s Next Longevity Business Summit and Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit, adding the Washington Innovation Summit and What’s Next Canada in recent years. Author of Turning Silver into Gold, How to Profit in the Boomer Market and The MFA Longevity Market Report, Mary has been recognized by ASA, Fortune, Time and as one of the top 100 Women in Silicon Valley. She is an adviser to the Ziegler LinkAge Fund, CABHI and numerous start-up companies in addition to her private client practice.

About Lori Bitter/The Business of Aging

Lori K. Bitter provides strategic consulting, research and development for companies seeking to engage with mature consumers at her consultancy The Business of Aging. Her current research, Hacking Life Shifts, in collaboration with RTI research and Collaborate, was championed by AARP, and funded by Proctor & Gamble, Bank of America, Unilever and others. She is a 2017 Influencer in Aging, named by Next Avenue and author of The Grandparent Economy. She was president of J. Walter Thompson’s Boomer division, JWT BOOM, the nation’s leading mature market advertising and marketing company and led that firm’s annual Boomer marketing event for five years.

About Sherri Snelling/Caregiving Club

Sherri Snelling is a corporate gerontologist and founder/CEO of Caregiving Club, a strategic consulting and content creation firm focused on biopsychosocial aging, Alzheimer’s and caregiver wellness. Her innovative wellness programs include the Me Time MondayTM and 7 Ways to Caregiver Wellness workshops. She is the author of A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care, a contributing columnist and national speaker on caregiving and has done work for AARP, Keck Medicine of USC, UnitedHealthcare, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, LifeCare, QVC. She was chairman of the National Alliance for Caregiving and is on an Alzheimer’s Association board.

Hacking Longevity Market Trends & Consumer Preference

Article Originally Published in Aging Today Newspaper of ASA.org

September-October 2019, Vol xl No. 5

There now is heightened interest in serving the longevity market, as evidenced in The Business of Aging’s 2018 study, Hacking Longevity: A Three Generation Look at Living a 100 Year Life (tinyurl.com/yxdsle49), which painted a landscape of opportunity for companies that can speak authentically to older con­sumers, and help them navigate later life.

 Many companies have built products for different generations of older consumers.

Though the needs of and opportunities to serve this consumer cohort are recog­nized and well-researched, some compa­nies steadfastly chase the youth market, assuming more money and opportunity lie there. Also, new companies and tech­nologies tend to target wealthier older consumers—those who can pay regardless of insurance reimbursement. Companies’ offerings could (and should) have more wide-ranging social impact and greater results with low-income adults, particu­larly those of more diverse backgrounds who may be managing multiple chronic conditions, who are more at risk for social isolation and who may not have technolo­gy to assist in their care. Nonprofit organizations can partici­pate in these marketing opportunities by educating young companies about the re­alities of older adults’ lives, and by work­ing with for-profit companies to provide distribution and pilot programs, bringing new products and services to more vul­nerable older consumers. Many companies claiming to target older adults have built and marketed products to at least two different genera­tions of older consumers and-or caregiv­ers, likely the Greatest and Baby Boom generations. But members of these co­horts differ in how they age—and in how they perceive their aging. Thus, it is criti­cal that companies access key consumer insights, especially because people, as they age, can’t always relate to the brands they once valued, thinking that these brands no longer speak to their needs.

Market Opportunities and Trends Solutions for the Greatest Generation were designed for a “birds of a feather flock to­gether” mindset—think suburban living and resort-style senior living—whereas baby boomers require curation: they value individuality and specialized approaches.

The personal health and fitness con­sumer category is growing. While older generations prefer group programming, the newer generations of older adults pre­fer personal trainers, individualized meal programs and customized vitamin and supplement regimes. With high rates of obesity and diabetes, companies in this space are poised for growth.

Experiences are king. The Baby Boom Generation ushered in the “age of experi­ences,” and technology has enhanced this trend’s growth. Sometimes the language of experience is “memory-making,” espe­cially when it involves a family’s multiple generations. From adventure travel to food and wine to family vacations, older adults prefer to share experiences instead of gifting “things.” They also share these experiences via social platforms or within family circles. This sharing impetus ex­tends to exploring family history and heri­tage, hence the growth of genealogy sites and DNA testing.

A preference for “little luxuries.” The new older adult appreciates not just peak experiences, but also top products— luxuries that span from gourmet ice cream to home wine cellars to designer bifocals to a meal in a celebrity chef’s restaurant. In­herent in all things experiential is sharing the experience on social media.

Home maintenance has created an in­dustry of gig workers who provide services older adults are unwilling to do or can’t do. Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and TaskRabbit all cater to this market. The segment of this home services economy ripe for innovation is the home organization–de-cluttering business. Organizations do exist, e.g., the National Association of Senior Move Man­agers, but this is a fragmented industry. Young families don’t want their parents’ furniture, collectibles and memorabilia. And, as older adults downsize and want to get rid of possessions, there is enormous (and growing) market opportunity.

Home is the center of care. As the ma­jority of older adults plans to age in their homes, professional homecare providers seek innovative ways to deliver care and services supporting the daily activities of older adults and their family caregivers. Applications for voice-activated devices (e.g., Amazon Echo and Google Home) that enable aging in the home are increas­ingly popular, as are services such as gro­cery delivery, medication reminders, care support and rides.

Products that have been used in the home for years are being re-engineered for aging at home. Consumers and care­givers are thinking about toileting and cleaning, maintaining odor control and keeping the home clean and infection-free. Expect robotics to assist with mun­dane in-home tasks.

Pet ownership is on the rise. The Baby Boom Generation has the highest divorce rates and the most aging singles. Pet owner­ship, as a means to avoid social isolation and loneliness, is more prevalent in this cohort. This indicates soaring sales of high-end pet food, pet insurance and accessories. This market also has created a service economy around in-home grooming, dog walking and sitting, veterinary services and more.

Financial services. The 2018 Hacking Longevity study revealed elders’ lack of understanding of financial products for retirement saving and, like other studies, showed that the Baby Boom Generation is understandably stressed about having enough money as they age. There is inno­vation around annuities and reverse mortgages, but these products have re­ceived mixed reviews, so selling any new versions is difficult. Consumers need more education to understand these prod­ucts’ uses and value.

The cannabis market has a Wild West feel to it.

Cannabis and CBD for pain manage­ment. The biggest category of consumer interest over the past two years is canna­bis and CBD. As states legalize medical and recreational cannabis, older adults are embracing it for pain management, help with sleeping and more. CBD prod­ucts have flooded the market with little evidence of efficacy for all of the claims made. This category has a Wild West feel to it, as start-ups appear daily; there is no clear market leader, but revenue projected by 2022 stands at $32 billion.

Companies in these trending catego­ries seek partners, just as they do inves­tors. While it can take for-profit and non­profit businesses time, imagination and key consumer research to create valuable partnerships, consumers benefit most from a careful development process. n

Lori Bitter is a marketing, research and development consultant, speaker and au­thor in the Bay Area, and author of The Grandparent Economy: How Baby Boom­ers Are Bridging the Generation Gap (Ithaca, NY: Paramount; 2015).

Sharing Hacking Longevity Research with California Assisted Living Association (CALA)

I am excited to be sharing insights from our latest research project, Hacking Longevity, with members of CALA on June 6th, 2018 in Sacramento. We’ll be discussing generational differences that make communication across three generations of older adults trickier, plus looking at Generation X as the new generation of family caregivers.

The theme for this year’s CALA Spring Conference and Trade Show event is “Elevate”:

el·e·vate / eləˌvāt / verb

  • raise or lift (something) up to a higher position.
    synonyms: raise, lift (up), raise up/aloft, upraise
  • raise to a more important or impressive level.
    synonyms: promote, upgrade, advance, move up, raise, prefer

We look forward to helping Senior Living professionals find new ways to elevate and shape the care and services they provide while enhancing residents’ quality of life through greater understanding.

To learn more, or to attend CALA’s Elevate Spring Conference and Trade Show, click here.

To learn more about Hacking Longevity, click here.

Excited to talk about The Business of Aging’s new research at AARP on April 12th!

The Business of Aging’s new research, Hacking Longevity, will premier at AARP’s Living 100 event in Washington D.C. on April 12th. The event will feature an “experience” of key data points of attitudes and changes displayed along a timeline at the Newseum in Washington DC.

The research is sponsored by AARP, GreatCall, Wells Fargo Advisors and Proctor & Gamble on the new Collaborata research platform.

The agenda for the AARP’s Living 100 Event can be found here.

Watch our social media – Facebook/TheBusinessofAging and Twitter – @LoriBitter and @TheBusinessofAging for live updates!

On my radar: Death Cleaning

On my radar are trend bytes – a gathering of observations – that indicate a larger trend is at work. 

I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo for a boomer-focused blog. It’s a hot trend right now. In my research I consistently hear older adults say that they have a lot of stuff. They tell me it keeps them from moving and “rightsizing” their living situation. They say it makes them depressed. Most of all they tell me their kids don’t want their stuff! After hearing about the Kondo method on television, I thought I’d check it out. I tried it in my own house (and am continuing to use it)! It is freeing to rid yourself of things you no longer wear or use.

Just this week, I was sitting in on a focus group for my latest project and heard of a twist on this idea. When asked about their passions, one woman in the group said she was really excited about “death packing.” She went on to describe a process similar to Kondo’s but is about gradually getting rid of things so that your loved ones don’t have to.

What is Death Cleaning?

The process, called Death Cleaning, is Swedish. The Swedish word is dostadning. It means slowly decluttering your life until you die; it generally begins in your fifties and is done so no one else is responsible for your leftovers! There is also a book about it by Margareta Magnusson, titled “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to free yourself and your family from a lifetime of clutter.

We have a television show called Hoarders: Buried Alive and consignment shops have successfully sprung up across the nation. In some cities, there are waiting lists for self-storage units, even though there are 50,000 storage facilities in the U.S. — five times the number of Starbucks. That’s 2.3 billion square feet. The backyard shed business is a lucrative one – 25% of people with two-car garages can’t park a car in one. We use eBay, craigslist, and NextDoor to unload things.

It’s a Trend!

Richard Eisenberg wrote an excellent article on the trend for NextAvenue called, Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff. This quote is particularly startling:

“For the first time in history of the world, two generations are downsizing simultaneously,” referring to our oldest population and the boomer generation.

With the youngest of the boomer generation in their mid-50s, there are years of opportunity ahead for companies who can help people plan, organize, store, and get rid of their possessions. I wrote about this trend for MediaPost a year ago and heard from many people going through this with their parents. There are high tech and no tech solutions here, some with very little start-up cost for the solopreneur. What do you think about the issue of being “over-stuffed” and the idea of death cleaning? I would love to hear from you!

 

Lori to speak at ICAA Conference in Orlando

Lori Bitter will moderate a panel on “The intergenerational imperative” at the ICAA Conference 2017. Bitter and colleagues will dive deeper into the companies, organizations and new initiatives working toward an intergenerational future. This session will explore the latest research, look at the workplace and importance of purpose, and provide a case-study view of successful projects.

Friday, October 13, 3:15 p.m.–4:30 p.m.

To learn more about the conference or to register, visit ICAA. 

Design for Aging – Learning from Other Cultures

by Jeffrey P. Rosenfeld, Ph.D., Environmental Gerontologist, and Professor-Parsons School of Design, and Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging

Thinking Cross-Culturally About Aging-in-Place

A different language is a different vision of life.

Federico Fellini, film director & scriptwriter

We are eager to learn from other cultures, but usually not when it comes to making our homes safer or more age-appropriate. Our food preferences are another story. We don’t hesitate to stock our kitchens and cupboards with the ingredients we need for a healthy Chinese stir fry or Turkish couscous.  If only we were as willing to think cross-culturally about aging in place.

We can learn a great deal about home safety from the housing, home-furnishings and design options offered across the world, especially in other nations with rapidly aging populations. Aging in place is a more creative process than it has ever been before.

The beauty of globalization is that it gives us a world of options for designing our homes. To paraphrase Burger King, we can truly “Have it our way,” as we prepare to age in our homes. I learned this lesson well   when Wid Chapman and I were writing Home Design in an Aging World.

Backstory: Home Design in an Aging World

Architect Wid Chapman and I decided to write a book to make cross-cultural comparisons of environments where people age-in-place: everything  from apartments, detached and semi-detached homes, to traditional farmhouses, communes, and high tech dwellings. In 2009, we surveyed homes and home furnishings available to older people in seven of the world’s most rapidly aging nations: Japan, Sweden, China, Brazil, Israel, the United States, and India. By the year 2009, all 7 of these nations were being reshaped by what the Japanese call The Silver Tsunami, and what we describe as The Age Wave.  We decided to do a comparative study of design and architectural responses to global aging.

This led to the publication of  Home Design in an Aging World (NY: Fairchild, 2010).  The book remains one of a handful of cross-cultural comparisons of architecture and design for aging-in-place.

Chapman and I have asked how architecture and design respond to kinship norms. How is aging-in-place shaped by Hindu kinship, which is strongly patriarchal and multigenerational? Or by the sensibilities of Sweden, where fertility is quite low and people typically live in nuclear households?

As environmental gerontologists, we were curious about the impact of age-related norms on aging-in-place. For instance, would aging-in-place be discouraged in Brazil, one of the world’s most youth-oriented societies.  And how about Japan? Unlike Brazil, Japan, is a gerontocracy where elders and old age are honored, and where pride of place in their children’s homes is enjoyed.  What is the impact of the high U.S. divorce rate and small family size on our own architecture and design for aging-in-place?

Chapman and I focused on both Western cultures (USA, Israel, and Brazil); and also on cultures where non-Western architectural norms and traditions are still in play (Japan, China, and India).  What follows are some examples of how constructed environments and local technologies interact with social norms to affect the experience of aging-in-place.

Vernacular Design

Learning from other cultures involves appreciating that there is often a mix of traditional home design – what architects call “vernacular design” – and cutting-edge technologies such as robotics. New technologies, combined with strategic changes in homedesign, are making it easier than ever before to age in place. People on the cusp of retirement can build upon new technologies to create everything from home offices to home care for a variety of chronic illnesses.

What follows is a very brief look at “lessons” drawn from other cultures, ranging from low-tech/high-touch to high-tech/low-touch,  and from ancient to post-modern.

Japan: Living Close To The Floor

There is an old Japanese saying which goes, “May you live and die on tatami.”  This refers to the bamboo mats which cover traditional Japanese homes from wall-to-wall. Home-furnishings in traditional Japanese homes are low-slung or actually on the floor. The futon is perhaps the most familiar example of this approach to home-furnishings. Low, traditional Japanese home furnishings are ofchigaidana-chofu-mori-residence-bigten moved from room to room as needed. This occurs on the tatami mats which cover the floor of a traditional Japanese home.

The floor-based Japanese design aesthetic features low-slung furniture and futons for sleeping that make any home safer. Apart from reducing falls, floor-based lifestyles enhance strength and balance. My sources tell me that even the most contemporary homes in Tokyo or Osaka contain a “Japanese Room” with traditional tatami mats on the floor, and Tokugawa detailing throughout.

Apart from being reverent about its past, Japan is also a world leader in technological innovation.  Japanese homes often contain a mix of products and technologies that hark back centuries, as in the case of traditional tea-sets or futons, and also look ahead to a robotic future. For example, there is a growing number of Japanese households with robotic pets – mostly dogs.

Futurist Timothy Horynak (2006) claims that the interest in robotic house pets reflects Japan’s passion for incorporating the newest of technologies with time-honored canons of Japanese design and home life. Robotics is the product of digital design and innovation. Tatami dates back centuries. That they exist together in some Japanese homes is a reminder that Japanese proudly mix tradition and technology. This may be the new face of aging in place in Japan and elsewhere in the world.

Brazil: Universal Design Begins at the Front Door

Brazilian architect Sandra Perito, from Sao Paulo, has designed Senior Housing that is intended to prevent domestic accidents, especially falls (Rosenfeld and Chapman, 2012). Perito  routinely adds a built-in table on the front porch or entry to a home. Perito makes sure that this Entrée Table is as close to the front door as possible. In apartment buildings for Brazilian Seniors, she does much the same.

The idea behind Perito’s Entrée Table it Seniors a place where they can place packages, bundles, or a purse while searching for their keys. The inspiration came from a elderly woman from Sao Paulo who lost her balance while rummaging through her purse in search of her keys. Perito adds this reminder: her table also functions as a grab-bar for additional balance while locking or unlocking the front door.

Scotland: Why Smaller is Better When it Comes to Refrigerators

On a trip to Scotland many years ago, I visited a number of homes in the Scottish Highlands where people either had very small refrigerators, or no refrigerator at all. Those without refrigerators kept perishable items in their cellars.  The climate in the highlands is such that the home’s basement is always cool enough to put perishables for a day or two.

Philip B. Stafford, author of  Elderburbia: Aging With A Sense of Place in America offers the following advice:  It is best for older people to have small refrigerators.  It has nothing to do with household size, he says.  Very simply, people with small refrigerators must leave home more frequently to do their grocery shopping.  The small refrigerator is an antidote to isolation.

France: Smart Home-Technology 

Beginning in 2013, Paris-based Netatmo has been developing a line of user-friendly Smart Home devices.  By “user-friendl3y,” Netatmo means that their technology provides feedback when and where their user is. For example Netatmo’s home security camera, “…detects and reports in real-time if someone lurks around your home, a car enters your driveway, or your pet is in the yard.”

User-friendly technology provides feedback at home, and also when the user is at work or on vacation.  The user can be far from home and rely on Netatmo’s personal weather station to keep track of  the weather at home. The personal air-quality sensor does the same for levels of air-pollution in and around the house.  The product line also includes a Smart thermostat and a Smart security camera with facial recognition. As more people opt to age-in-place, Netatmo provides the technology for safety and security.

Singapore: Robotic Home-Exercise Coach

In 2015, Singapore company RoboCoach, Inc., introduced  a robotic “exercise coach” at five of Singapore’s Senior Centers. The RoboCoach has a smiling face and appendages  that mimic human movements.  The robot has been developed to teachSeniors  a range of exercises while offering verbal encouragement and support.103266869-robocoach-1910x1000

According to The Guardian, the company predicts that RoboCoach will become a popular fixture in many of Singapore’s Senior Centers and Senior Living Facilities.  The goal is to enable the elderly to lead more independent, fulfilling lives.

“…The android with metal arms and a screen for a face is already leading sessions and will roll out its services to five senior activity centers across the city-state this year.”

Infocomm Development Authority of  Singapore (IDA)

China:  The World’s Earliest Example of Universal Design

BMEHED Elderly Salar man on Kang bed-stove with his granddaughter, Xunhua Salar Autonomous County, Haidong, Qinghai, China

Aging-in-Place, More Global Than Ever

Going forward aging-in-place will mean combining renovation and innovation: changes to the constructed environment of home, and the installation of  technologies which will make living at home safer and easier.  That said, it is as important as ever to respect the role that culture plays in making a home safe to age in place. As technology becomes a more important part of this process we must:

  • Consider how culture shapes the relationship between “private space” and “public space” in and around the home
  • Respect cultural traditions that shape the spaces where people cook, eat, sleep, and toilet. Designers and gerontologists should be mindful of how age, sex, and marital status all shape the form and function of a home
  • Understand the symbolism and social meaning of color in the architecture and design for every culture.

References:

About the Author: For the past 10 years, Dr. Rosenfeld has been researching the interplay of ethnicity, aging, and home design. He is currently looking at home design and community-building by Brooklyn’s “New” ethnic elders from Korean, India, Pakistan, and Guyana. Along with architect Wid Chapman, AIA, he has written Home Design in an Aging World (Bloomsbury, 2010), and UnAssisted Living (Monacelli Press, 2012).

Dr. Rosenfeld is also currently working with the research arm of New York Methodist Hospital in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  He is looking at ethnic differences (incidence and prevalence) of serious geriatric falls in the home.  The goal is to better understand how ethnically-themed design contributes to ethnic disparities in home injury. Dr. Rosenfeld has been on the adjunct  faculty at Brookdale Center since May, 2015. He can be contacted through Parsons School of Design at Rosenfej@NewSchool.Edu; 347-249-4014.

Destination Singapore: Restoring the Joy of Eating

By Ani Grigorian, with Jeff Rosenfeld

In a single century, we have extended human lifespan by 35+ years. At the same time, technology has evolved to the point where we can now communicate instantaneously across oceans, benefit from software which coordinates care and manages health.

We have even created robots which sense emotion and even lead group exercises.   Not only are we living longer.  We are living better!

It’s no wonder that technology and innovations that serve our aging communities are such a hot-topic. The Ageing Asia Innovation Forum, hosted this year in Singapore, brings-together professionals, inventors, and problem solvers from all over the world.  During this meeting, they had the opportunity to sample a new line of food products: Health Food Matters. The founder, Grace Gan, calls it a functional food product because it is intended for people who have feeding issues.

Gregorian was one of the few environmental gerontologists in attendance at these meetings. By and large, the Forum brings designers, inventors, and product-developers together.

On exhibit was a plethora of products and designs meant to make life more comfortable, and nutritious for people with feeding issues.  In other words, people who need help feeding themselves, or who need to be fed.

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-11-06-07-pmGrace Gan, a native Singaporean, developed this line of functional food products in response to the older people in her own family. The product line is called Health Food Matters, with the subtitle, “Restoring the Joy of Eating.” It is steadily gaining popularity across Singapore, perhaps because it does make eating a more joyous and dignified experience for consumers – and their caregivers.

The original market for Health Food Matters  was older adults, and people living with a disability.  Gan at first marketed exclusively to care centers and retirement residences across Singapore.

Gan, a speech therapist by training, had spent a lot of time working with patients in Singapore’s care-centers.  She was frequently present when meals were served, and she noticed that food-preparation, serving and eating were fraught with stress and tension.

Even more important, Gan noticed that feeding was as stressful for the caregivers and wait staff, as it was for patients who were being fed.

It is familiar that the sense of taste begins to dull as people grow older, affecting the ability to taste, smell and savor food.  This is true even for people aging-in-place at home, where there is more control over what is on the menu, and how it has been prepared.   In care settings, the dulling of taste buds is compounded by loss of control over menu, and dining conditions.

To compound matters, many older adults in institutional care live with neurocognitive disorders that cause dysphagia, a nutritional disorder characterized by difficulty swallowing, malnutrition and dehydration. Malnutrition and dehydration, in turn, contributes to other conditions such as bed sores, infection and hypoglycemia.

When Grace Gan visited Singapore’s care centers, she noticed that it was common practice to thicken food with milk supplements.  The idea was that this would make institutional food more nutritious and more palatable.  But, in fact, Gan believed that the result was neither nutritious, nor palatable.  Milk supplements did not typically enhance appetite, or contribute to better health.

Gan developed Health Food Matters as a way to enhance appetite by making its functional food line taste more like familiar food, and have what professionals call, the “Mouth Feel” of eating familiar food.  In taste and texture, Health Food Matters has the taste and “Mouth Feel” of familiar food, but is much softer, and easier to eat.

Products range from porridges, side dishes, snacks and desserts to condiments and thickeners with a variety of flavors that serve different  functions. As an alternative to thickened fluids, apple ENA-charge fruit jelly for instance, supplement fiber while apricot fruit jelly supplement zinc and iron. Calcium sprinkles can be added to porridges or side dishes providing flavor, color, and extra vitamins which combat low appetite and malnutrition.

In addition to keeping patients in mind when developing functional food products, Health Food Matters has benefits for caregivers. Most important, it relieves them of many meal-related burdens: chopping and cutting food, feeding patients or assisting them when they feed themselves, and the perpetual chore of cleaning-up.

Portions tend to be small, but are densely packed with extra nutrients, proteins and calories. This achieves nutritional goals for patients, and gives caregivers an unexpected bonus. The Health Food Matters philosophy  also harmonizes with Singapore’s efficiency-driven culture:  Mealtime becomes more “Efficient.”  Less food is wasted, and less time is spent coaxing patients to eat. This resonates with local nutritionists and caregivers because Singapore is a culture which strives for efficiency.

One reason for the efficiency, is that this product-line is easily prepared. Caregivers simply submerge prepackaged food bundles in heated water. Nurses and care staff can focus on caring for residents rather than worrying about the viscosity and portion-size.

Products range from porridges, side dishes,  snacks and desserts, to condiments and thickeners with a variety of flavors that serve different functions. As an alternative to thickened fluids, apple ENA-charge fruit jelly for instance,  supplement fiber while apricot fruit jelly supplement zinc and iron.

Calcium Sprinkles, another of Gan’s innovative products, can be sprinkled over porridges or side dishes to enhance flavor, color, and nutritional value.   Caregivers tell Gan that the Calcium Sprinkles also make food look more festive and inviting.

Grace Gan believes that Health Food Matters will eventually be a welcome alternative to forced-feeding.  Thanks to this Singapore-based product, older people all over the world can one day look forward to enjoyable dining, in the company of family or friends.

Even now, local care facilities in Singapore residents report improved health outcomes  when they serve Health Care Matters, Inc. to patients and/or residents.   Caregivers also report minimal food wastage and easier clean up.  Residents enjoy Health Food Matters, Inc. that they often clean their plates.

Above all, Health Food Matters  makes mealtime into dining once again.  Health Food Matters restores dignity to breakfast, lunch, and dinner in long-term care facilities.  Eating can and should be a social experience, something which is true everywhere from Singapore to Seattle.

Singapore is considered to be a leader in applying cutting-edge, sustainable, technology to geriatrics. Technology-based interventions, such as robotics, are already making long-term care facilities more efficient.  Health Food Matters may be doing this for meals and mealtime in long-term care.

Singapore is a world leader in developing and applying technology to geriatrics. Health Food Matters has been proven to make mealtime a more efficient experience.  It may well be that this product-line can also make mealtime a more spiritual and social experience. For older people and people with disabilities. That would be the proverbial icing on the cake!

Contact:  Ani Gregorian:    animgrig@umich.edu

Jeff Rosenfeld:    Rosenfej@newschool.edu

 

 

Destination Mumbai: Transforming Aging with Smartphones

by Ushma Mody, with Jeff Rosenfeld, Ph.D.

India’s economic boom has brought technology to the masses.  And no technology has been as transformative in India than the smartphone.  More affordable than the laptop or ipad, the smartphone has almost become a necessity in India.

Until about ten years ago, it would have been unheard of for lower-income Indians to own, or even have access to smart phones.  But by 2016, millions of Indian people had smartphones.  In fact, a 2016 survey of 70 nations worldwide found that India had the world’s second-largest number of smartphone users, exceeded only by China.  (Wikipedia, “List of Countries [N=70] by Number of Mobile Phones in Use”).

By 2017, the number of mobile phone users in India is projected to be 730.7 million, again the world’s second highest number after China. An estimated 10% of them, or 73 million, will be Indians aged 50+.  And nearly 10% of them will have smartphones (Forbes, “India Becomes the World’s Second-Largest Smartphone Market,” 3 February, 2016.)

India’s mature markets have embraced mobile phone usage with gusto.  Although people aged 60+ now comprise only 7.5% of India’s vast population, the percentage who are mobile phone users is higher than in younger cohorts of the population.

According to The Times of India, the percentage of mobile phone users aged 55+ had “…practically doubled between 2012 and 2013…rising from 5% in 2012, to 9% in 2013.” (Forbes, 3 February, 2016).  As India is reshaped by the Age Wave, smartphone usage will continue to rise. Without a doubt, mature markets will continue impacting on the development and marketing of smartphones.

The Business of Aging: India’s Age Wave Shapes  Smartphone Markets

During the past 6 years, the price of smartphones in India dropped steadily, which has both increased demand for smartphones, and encouraged the introduction of India’s first “Senior-Friendly” smartphone.

In October of 2014, telecommunications giant Mitashi began marketing the Mitashi Senior Smartphone AP103 (NDTV Correspondent, “Mitashi Play Senior Friend Android Smartphone Launched at Rs. 4,999” Gadgets 360, Oct 21 2014).  The AP103 was developed in response to India’s Age Wave, and was marketed aggressively to India’s  Seniors.  Among its selling points were:

  • The “SOS” Feature: In addition to standard smartphone features, such as internet, text-messaging, phone service and camera, the AP103 had an “SOS” feature, which allowed for rapid dialing to get help during an emergency; and
  • A “Senior-Friendly” Face: The AP103 offered larger font (by default), brighter colors, and larger buttons. This was supposed to make the AP103 is easier for visually impaired people to read.  Its larger buttons were said to be easier on arthritic fingers.

The AP103 was not well received by Seniors, however.  Sales were sluggish.  Complaints and criticisms went viral.  As early as 2014, the same year as the rollout, e-commerce websites were flooded with complaints and snarky reviews of the AP103.

For example, shortly after the roll-out in 2014, older people began complaining that the AP103’s microphone-system was faulty.  Even worse, there were complaints about AP103’s battery life.  According to comments and reviews on Amazon, battery-life was so low that the smartphone needed to be recharged more than once a day.

Worst of all, dissatisfied customers across India insisted that there was nothing especially “Senior Friendly” about the AP103.  The time was right for competitors to step-in.  A year later, in 2015, another telecommunications company did precisely that.

Smartphone Wars: Competition For A Market-Share

In 2015, SeniorWorld launched a competitive smartphone called EasyFone, which was also intended for mature markets.  EasyFone had similar but more sophisticated features: An SOS emergency call button which texted for help along with telephoning; a battery which held its charge much longer; and a standing dock which doubled as a charger.  The goal of this last feature was to automatically charge the phone every time it rested on this stand, thus eliminating the need for Seniors to (re)charge the smartphone

Other features include the option of adding photographs next to the names and phone numbers of important contacts; also, larger buttons and fonts.  In addition, the EasyFone comes in brighter colors. Snappy colors, larger font, and the option of “photo calling,” or selecting phone numbers from the phone’s directory on the basis of a photo rather than a name) proved to be appealing to Seniors. Like Mitashi’s smartphone, this one is also inexpensive, priced at around $80.

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-10-18-29-pm

There is also a SeniorWorld website (Indian-based).  Along with promoting the EasyFone, the SeniorWorld website offers a blog, healthcare self-testing options for older people, and even a “Hobbies” page which offers information on some of the most popular pass times of older people: Gardening, exercise, cooking and more.

EasyFone, along with the SeniorWorld website,  have been well received by India’s Mature Markets. People who had bought this phone for their parents report that they seem to be happy with the phone, and involved with the website.

Like so many Third-World nations, India is now experiencing a demographic transition.  Not only is India’s business world becoming more sensitive and responsive to the needs of the mature marketplace, the sheer size of that marketplace makes it more important than ever. The EasyFone is already being joined by new and more Senior-Friendly competitors.  Senior-friendly products such as this are ringing-in a new age for Smartphones, and a new age for India as well.

Contact:  Ushma Mody:      Ushmamody28@gmail.com

Jeff Rosenfeld:  Rosenfej@newschool.edu

References

Forbes, “India Becomes the World’s Second-Largest Smartphone Market,” 3 February,2016.

NDTV Correspondent, “Mitashi Play Senior Friend Android Smartphone Launched at Rs. 4,999” Gadgets 360, October 21 2014.”

NDTV Correspondent, “Five Senior-Friendly Phones Available in India, October 14, 2014.

The Times Of India, Seniors Ditch Old Tech, Call On Smartphones. November 7, 2014. Saritha Raj.

Wikipedia, “List of Countries [N=70] by Number of Mobile Phones in Use”.

Biosketch: Ushma Mody graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Parsons, the New School for Design (New York), majoring in Interior Design. Her favored secondary subject was history – of art, design and architecture. During her time at Parsons, she was named to the Dean’s list, and also won the award for Outstanding Design upon graduating. She worked for Wid Chapman Architects in New York, post-graduation. She currently lives in India with her family, and will be a Masters student at New York School of Interior Design, beginning in the  Fall 2016, semester.  At NY School of Design she will focus on designing Sustainable Interior Environments.