Imagine bottle caps that glow when it's time to take medicine, chairs that take your vital signs and even carpets that analyze walking patterns and anticipate physical degeneration and mental infirmity.
All are here or coming soon and will be a boon to the nation's 78 million Baby Boomers — those born from 1946 to 1964 — who are facing the prospect of aging with a shrinking population of caregivers.
During a trial in Sarasota, one user placed a sensor on a peanut butter jar.
"She knew that if that was moved daily, everything was fine," says Fanlo with a laugh.
This trend suggests Boomers likely will have few issues welcoming and paying for networked in-home health care monitoring systems. Sharp's Health Care Support Chair, which was unveiled in October at the tech confab CEATEC in Japan (where a staggering 25% of its 127 million citizens are older than 65, compared with 13% of Americans), is a ,000 throne that can test and relay blood pressure and other vitals in one quick sitting.
That perhaps explains the significant leap in venture capital funds directed at health care information technology companies — about 5 million last year, up from 3 million three years ago, according to the Money Tree Report from Pricewaterhouse Coopers and the National Venture Capital Association. ' But if there are profits to be made in this space, they may take some time to roll in, says Lisa Suennen, who since 1998 has helped steer investments in health care tech firms for Psilos Group Managers out of the firm's Bay Area offices. " says Suennen, noting that beyond the cost of the product and often its installation, there are typically recurring monthly data-collection fees. Even more futuristic is a carpet woven from optical fibers that analyzes footstep patterns to predict whether someone may soon fall.
Today's Boomers have amassed an estimated wealth totaling trillion, about 70% of the total net worth of American households. "But from an investment point of view, that's a long time horizon." Nevertheless, many companies are leaping into the breach, some diving like Lively into the direct-to-consumer pool.
In fact, this powerful consumer group already is happily spending on tech products that keep tabs on health, notably bracelets such as Fitbit and Nike Fuel. Glow Cap fits most standard prescription bottles and uses light and sound to signal the user that it's time to take a pill.
"With fewer people to watch over tomorrow's seniors, some will move into digitally connected retirement homes, while others will simply retrofit their own homes," Tester says. Research shows that even small changes in daily habits can hint at serious problems to come." Even if today the number of adults watching over senior parents remains high, those same time-pressed adults are looking for any help they can get: Nearly 1 in 5 Americans are family caregivers, whose free services are valued at 5 billion a year.While the company's Quiet Care monitoring system is aimed at health care facilities, Connect Caregiver, currently in early release, is a Web-accessible set of family caregiving tools that help adult-children oversee the daily medical and social routines of their aging parents."With Boomers being as mobile as they are, we're going to see monitoring expand far beyond the home itself," says Sean Slovenski, CEO of Care Innovations."There's a visceral reaction many people have to being monitored," says Stephen Intille, associate professor at Northeastern University's College of Computer and Information Sciences and a leading researcher in the field of personal health informatics."We need to stay away from stigmatizing these innovations."We're hoping to come to an arrangement and start clinical trials," she says.