The boomer generation, who are currently aged between 56 and 74, are embracing technological advancements in order to improve the quality of their lives and maintain their independence. Hitherto ignored, in favour of younger consumer segments, innovations for this older demographic have been on the rise.
According to a report by the Consumer Technology Association, the boomer industry is expected to triple in the next three years, to nearly $30 billion in the US.
While South Africa is a country with a large youth demographic, Stats SA announced this year that life expectancy for South Africans was on the rise (62.5 years for males and 68.5 years for females) and noted that these figures have been steadily climbing over the past decade.
An initiative between Singapore Management University and Tata Consultancy Services, known as SHINESeniors, uses a system of unobtrusive sensors in the homes of seniors, to monitor the occupants’ wellbeing. This enables elderly people to live independently for a longer period of time, which is a desire expressed by most older people.
TrueLoo, developed by Toilabs, is a smart toilet seat that doesn’t require any change in behaviour. It monitors output 24/7 to provide valuable insights into health and wellness.
Bridging generational divides
Encore.org is an online platform that facilitates intergenerational problem solving, encouraging what they call “generational solidarity.” They accelerate innovation by offering a variety of fellowships bringing generations together to solve society’s greatest problems, increase capacity in the social sector, and create new models for the multi-generational workforce.
Nesterly is a home share platform that pairs seniors with students. The easy way to rent a room, starting with one month, where housemates can exchange help around the house for lower rent. Nesterly helps make intergenerational home sharing safe and easy by providing screening, customizable home sharing agreements, and ongoing support. This is similar to what we refer to in SA as “boarding”.
The death of a spouse and smaller family sizes have resulted in many older people facing a loneliness problem. Intuition Robotics has developed a digital companion called ElliQ to combat loneliness. Unlike digital assistants, digital companion agents provide much more than just a voice user interface – social AI entities that proactively interact with each user. ElliQ is a friendly, intelligent, inquisitive presence in older adults’ daily lives – there for them, in their corner, offering tips and advice, responding to questions, surprising them with suggestions – a dedicated companion.
Joy For All launched their multi-award winning companion pet cats in 2015, designed with input from older adults. Shortly afterwards, they started to receive testimonials on the positive impacts on loneliness, isolation, Alzheimer’s and all forms of dementia. The pet pup was introduced the next year.
VR and Wearable Tech
Neuro Rehab VR – a virtual reality experience for older patients undergoing physical therapy following a stroke, brain injury or spinal cord injury or who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases. By employing machine learning, they’ve tailored each exercise to the patient’s specific therapy needs and ability so that they can receive the most efficient care possible to progress recovery. With VR the patient interacts with the virtual world in 3 dimensions, thus providing a more immersive experience.
Falling is a major concern for the older generation. Japanese researchers have invented a wearable robotic tail, called the Arque that helps provide better balance. Inspired by the tails of seahorses, the tail has a pendulum-like effect. The user straps the tail around the waist and a wearable body tracker calculates the user’s centre of gravity, prompting the tail to adjust itself accordingly as a counterbalance. It may be some time before the older generation says goodbye to the trusty cane in favour of a robotic tail but such wearable technologies will become more commonplace in the future.
While some of these innovations are designed specifically for this older cohort, there are others, such as Apple adding a fall detection feature into its Apple Watch Series 4® instead of building an app as an add-on feature, that have built in features that accomodate ageing. Technology is becoming increasingly crucial to enabling this older generation to live an active and independent life for as long as possible.
To understand this demographic further, Flux Trends will be hosting a Virtual Open Session Boomer Economy – Marketing to the Amortalists on the 28th October 2020 where they will delve into what makes this generation tick and what to expect from them going forward.