Stria is creating a series of Q&As with young people working in the longevity market to elevate new perspectives and explore the views of future leaders in our field.
While aging Americans care greatly about the security of their physical and financial wellbeing, I have found that most are primarily concerned with maintaining agency. We hear so much about “aging in place” these days, but I think the concern is deeper than that. It’s more about aging on one’s own terms in accordance with one’s principles. No one wants the final chapter of their American Dream to be ghost written.
A crisis is only a crisis if we show up unprepared. Yes, by 2020, there are estimated to be 117 million people in need of care, with only 45 million active family caregivers. As an industry, we need to be prepared with transformative products and technology that can bridge the gap between the substantially low number of caregivers and increasingly high number of care recipients.
While it cannot replace the human touch, technology can tremendously enhance care and redefine what it means to be a caregiver. For paid caregivers, technology can scale their support and improve care quality. For family or informal caregivers, technology can reduce caregiving burdens. For aging Americans without caregivers, technology can facilitate aging in place—in particular, telehealth allows, for the first time, high quality care to be administered virtually, within the home.
In 2015, my mother, Eva, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 57. At the time, I was only a freshman in college—since my Mom’s diagnosis, all I’ve wanted to do is help her be herself, her true self, safely, for as long as possible.
One of the first struggles that we ran up against was my mom’s inability to use her iPhone. Texting became a challenge and she had trouble answering calls. I turned to Google for possible solutions. What I thought would be a simple research project, turned out to be overwhelming and intimidating. People who don’t know what they need, myself included, simply do not know how to effectively search for, let alone adopt, the right solution. I concluded there had to be a better way.
If an online platform can pinpoint all the restaurants within a 10 mile radius serving my favorite brunch special, an online platform can help emotionally and physically exhausted caregivers discover the right tech solutions for their families. Enter, Alz you Need.
Younger people working in the field—millennials in particular—grew up with more technology. For us, tech is natural, an extension of our abilities. That said, we understand that this is not the case for preceding generations. I want my older colleagues to know that we respect this differing degree of familiarity with technology. Not every individual is suited for a smart home. In fact, I regularly recommend low-tech caregiving solutions even when there is a more capable high tech option if that’s what is best-suited for a use case.
Most importantly, young people in the field do not think technology can replace human care, and we are in no rush to see that sci-fi novel where care is fully automated become a reality. We care tremendously about building the right product and sharing it with the right families. We are designing for our parents, and ourselves; humanity and individual’s needs will always be at the core. Mom doesn’t need a robot unless she’s comfortable with one—and of course, only if it’s well designed.
I’m kept awake at night thinking about the rate at which innovation must occur to ensure that America’s (rapidly growing) aging demographic gets the surge of care it will need, soon. We need to streamline care to cut costs, but while doing this, we need to improve the quality of care; the only feasible solution is technology, and transformative innovation within the aging technology space. While innovation in the aging sphere has made great strides in the past few years, we have a long way to go in terms of both product-development and influencing consumer attitudes.
WANT MORE FROM LEDA ROSENTHAL? HERE’S THE BOOK SHE RECOMMENDS TO LONGEVITY MARKET PROFESSIONALS.