The baby boomer population is set to grow to 98 million people by 2060 in the US alone (24% of population), there is a lucrative opportunity within the elder care market. But this growth doesn’t come without a cost: a shortage of home care nurses and physicians as well as the growing cost of assisted living puts stress not only on families, but also on government programs. Companies can bring value to seniors that want to age in place instead of living in a retirement facility through the IoT industry. Although market penetration is difficult due to irregularities in behavior as well as redefining ease of use, IoT devices will assist in bringing seniors closer to the future of assisted living and away from dated infrastructure.
Statistics show that 90% of elderly individuals want to age in place instead of moving into a retirement home. This supports the issue of the looming senior housing crisis, where growth is accelerating double to what care facilities can offer, and costs are only going up. With one in six people in the world being 65 and over by 2050, numerous companies are taking advantage by offering different solutions such as wearables, security systems and motion sensors. With multiple solutions/companies in the industry, there is a lack of standardization which supports a universal platform. IoT is the fix to this issue. With the future of the eldercare services market heading towards an invisible future where seamlessness will be the industry standard, IoT is best equipped with the integration and automation capabilities to take advantage of this shift.
Aside from the lack of standardization of the industry, the market poses unique challenges that need to be considered. First of all, due to the unpredictable behavior of senior individuals, properly designing tech is difficult and is often done incorrectly (designed for optimal behavior). Examples of challenging behavior include unplugging things from outlets and a constant change in routine due to short attention span. This results in false alerts going off for a variety of current solutions due to poor AI design. The caregiver fills this void. Did you know that each year, $300 billion in economic activity in the US alone is forgone due to a caregiver needing to stay home?
Seniors tend to fear technology as they don’t understand it. The current definition of “ease of use” does not apply to the senior care market for a variety of reasons. Creating a technology that seniors either understand or don’t see are the two options companies have. With the number of people with dementia doubling every 20 years, the latter option is more viable, somewhere IoT can shine. As this number grows, it will only make it more difficult to penetrate the market as the niche is highly fragmented and lacks a universal solution. The future of the senior generation is tech-savvy, companies need to find a way to balance technology that seniors can use while providing that truly seamless experience through the use of IoT.
There needs to be a middle-ground that bridges these issues with their respective solutions. This is where the need for caregivers comes in. We’re still at a point where a physical presence is needed with technology to make sure the protocol works as intended. Companies need to rethink strategy with their product lines to properly fit the current demand and consider the future in order to remain relevant in tomorrow’s landscape. As time progresses, the economic pressure associated with caregivers remaining at home will alleviate due to the increase in automated IoT.
As companies begin taking advantage of IoT-based eldercare devices due to the data they can provide for proper optimization, there is a growing need for universal standardization to fix the cracks between the ever-fragmented IoT market. With unique solutions needing to be developed all depending on the chipsets and platforms used to develop these devices, it’s becoming inefficient for companies and consumers alike. One of the first technologies set to fix this divide is Cognitive Systems’ WiFi Motion, which provides a seamless user experience by using IoT devices as motion sensors through RF signals. WiFi Motion technology is validated by the movement of the market allowing seniors to age in place without privacy-intrusive cameras, all while a caregiver can monitor. With WiFi Motion being a visionary technology, other companies should follow a similar path for success: no intrusion on daily routine whilst providing a solution seniors don’t need to interact with.
The eldercare market will grow from $100 billion in 2016 to $225 billion by 2024 . Companies need to begin adopting this technology to properly enter and stay relevant within the market of today and tomorrow. Corporations have to realign their product strategy to what the market is demanding rather than creating further inefficiencies with their products and further segmenting the market. With a fast-growing baby boomer population, this niche is finally starting create real opportunity, and with a clear gap in the market, companies should not rest in taking advantage before falling behind their competitors.