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Thanks to advances in medicine, life expectancy has increased rapidly. This positive change is, however, presenting society with many challenges, and the health crisis has brought many of these into sharp focus. One of the main challenges presented by our rapidly aging society is the growth of dementia, with 50 million people across the world currently living with the illness, a figure set to triple by 2050.
The reality is, however, that an aging population also presents many opportunities, and within the entrepreneur community there is a growing awareness of this. In the UK, where I’m based, 80 percent of wealth is in the over 50s community, so product developers and businesses are waking up to this expanding market and the potential to improve people’s lives.
Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Take on the Future of Aging Using Artificial Intelligence
Many entrepreneurs are approaching this market from a place of caring and compassion. They might originate their idea from having a parent or relative who is finding aging challenging — perhaps they have had a fall or are living with dementia, and this drives the innovator to create a solution to address these issues. Other entrepreneurs are coming from the care community and bring with them lived experience.
In the past, there has been a tendency to create age-specific products, a habit that is thankfully disappearing. Older people do not want products designed for older people. Thankfully product designers and software developers are now focused on developing products with ageless design and co-designing with the older community they want to serve.
Seniors are more engaged in smart stuff than many might think; well over 50 percent of people over 65 have an iPad and are happy to consider using apps and services to connect to family or help them live independently. This is perhaps the main goal of many of us as we age: to remain in our homes, live independently for longer and do the things we love doing. This desire is driving a new product category, and it is global.
I have selected seven of the top new services and companies that have come to my attention, all focused on making independent living easier and supporting better residential care with simple solutions and real impact.
It is often claimed that human beings are a “musical species,” and it is evidently true that music can change our moods and moderate levels of stress. One innovative company, Memory Tracks, has developed a music platform that uses the magic of music to tackle the agitation and anxiety often associated with dementia care. Its app cleverly links well-known songs to personal care activities and schedules them at the right time, bringing calm to stressful situations. On a personal note, I wish the Memory Tracks app had been around for my grandmother, who loved music and would have benefited enormously from using Memory Tracks to support her in her later life. Its tagline, “Music and Health in Harmony,” speaks volumes.
Another clever adaptation of existing technology comes from Kraydel, with its Konnect service. Konnect works through a television, helping deliver care calls as well as notifications and alerts for medication, fluids or exercise. A challenge to all these innovative services is adoption and engagement, so using the good old TV make this a far easier journey for users and families.
Living in our own homes longer is not only what the majority of us desire, but it also lowers care costs and is good for our communities. So how do we make it easier for vulnerable people who need constant support to feel safe but not spied on? Bridgit is a clever communication hub that fits to the fridge door and measures lots of factors around the home: temperature, humidity, air quality, movement and fridge use. It also acts as a messaging device and can record health data from a watch worn by the occupant. The platform contacts family or support if something happens that shouldn’t, or doesn’t happen that should.
Related: 5 Ways to Help Your Aging Workforce Embrace Digital Transformation
Ally Smart Care
When those we love do enter residential care, it doesn’t mean we magically relax. Nighttime care brings its own challenges, with regular staff checks waking up residents and a high risk of falls. Ally Smart Care is an acoustic monitoring system that plugs into a resident’s room and monitors movements and sounds to detect when residents are calling for help, are awake and active, unusually restless or in discomfort. Care staff simply check alerts on a smartphone and assess whether residents need their assistance. The service can reduce falls by 55 percent and hospital visits by 20 percent.
Personal Alarm Watch
In the past, when function trumped form, older people would need to wear an alarm pendant to call for help when in need, and nothing says “vulnerable” like a red button hanging around the neck. Fortunately, some clever chaps have come up with the Personal Alarm Watch, which connects to a 24/7 monitoring team at the push of a button and allows anyone needing help to speak directly through the watch. In addition, it has a step-counting function,
One of the most imaginative innovations in care over the last couple of years has been the Tovertafel, or “Magic Table” from the Netherlands. The device projects moving images onto a table top and has sensors that enable users to move the images around. Flowers, dominos, jigsaws, lots of colorful images and games to play. It really is quite mesmerizing.
A less playful, more thoughtful approach is taken by Mirthy, an online platform for public speakers. With interactive Q&A sessions, it connects older adults and allows them to exercise their interests and passions, wherever they’re located.
It is heartening to see more entrepreneurs beginning to focus on the growing opportunity that our aging society brings, an objective that not only makes financial sense, but is also, in the eyes of many, noble.
Related: How Silicon Valley Plans to Live Forever
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