Much of the focus in the health and wellness sectors at International CES is on tech meant to make our lives easier in the smallest of ways. Fitness trackers help us count the steps we take and gauge how well we sleep, but they don't always push us to make better decisions. Wearable devices alert us of our bodies' vitals because it feels good to be able to visualize ourselves as data, but often the data isn't understood and the wearables gather dust on the bedside table.
But walk through the showroom floors slowly enough and you'll spot a few booths exhibiting the latest technology for a different purpose - care giving for the older generations. It's not always an immediately thought-of need in digital health and technology, but it may be one of the most important ones, and it's not a need easily met by apps. Often older consumers can't conveniently use apps and devices to make daily discomforts go away. The highest healthcare costs are seen for those that are living alone in old age with chronic disease, yet the amount of smartphone penetration in this generation is at the lowest level.
At CES Digital Health Summit, David Inns, CEO of GreatCall, a California-based company producing health and safety products for seniors, speaks about innovating technology for the older generation, the people that truly need the convenience of technology to improve their lifestyles. He discusses the important factors that go into innovating technology for what he calls the "greatest generation."
Once companies realize that complex apps aren't the best way to help seniors, they should move towards developing tech that is focused on simplicity and service. The tech market for older generations isn't focused on sleek gadgets; it's focused on effective costs, ease of use, and efficiency.
Therefore, it's vital to focus on solving the problems, not the technology. "Cool is not cool," he says, explaining that what many buy for the coolness factor and then disregard a week later are actually overly complex and undesirable for older consumers.
Technology and devices that engage family members are key players in this market, he explains. Family members are often the best caregivers and the most important decision makers for older consumers. Tech that keeps people aware of their elderly parents' habits and any odd or unexpected variations in those habits - e.g. a device that tells someone when his or her elderly mother didn't make her usual 8 a.m. coffee that morning - is incredibly useful and can help prevent problems before they happen.
He also calls for companies to go directly to their consumers, provided that they have the capital. Engaging with the target market will help industries determine exactly what older consumers want and really need.
Lastly, he warns those developing tech for older consumers that the market is still quite early and it pays to be patient. There are 20 million seniors who could benefit, and 40 million family members that want to help. Created and marketed the right way, health and safety devices and apps for older consumers could improve the lives of millions.