The Booming Tech Market for Boomers and Beyond
The 2022 AgeTech Market Map identifies more than 230 tech companies across 15 categories targeting elderly users and their caregivers. Gerontologist, agetech author, and TheGerontechnologist.com founder Keren Etkin began developing the map in 2017, when U.S. funding to startups focused on eldercare, elderly populations, and home health care totaled $278 million, according to Crunchbase data. Funding peaked in 2020, with a record $1.1 billion in investment; in 2021, that funding was a still-healthy $519 million.
“This is a boom period,” says Laurie Orlov, eldercare advocate and founder of Aging and Health Technology Watch, which publishes market research and reports on technology for elderly populations. “That doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon.”
Boomers are driving the boom. Orlov defines elderly technology users as those who are 75 years old and older. The oldest of the 71.6 million Baby Boomers in the U.S. turn 76 this year, and their peers will soon follow, as the youngest Boomers are now turning 58.
“This has awakened investors and innovators,” Orlov says of the aging Boomer population.
Indeed, there are venture capital funds that exist solely to support aging-focused startups, like PrimeTime Partners and the Ziegler Link-Age Funds. “And then you throw COVID into it,” she adds, “which has generated even greater interest for technology in the home.” Smart home technologies, while helpful to everyone during lockdowns, are a major category of agetech.
Despite outdated notions of elderly folks spurning technology, agetech’s target demographic is ready for the new tools. More than 60% of US adults aged 65+ owned smartphones in 2021. And 72% of AARP survey respondents in their 70s said they rely on technology to stay connected. That willingness to embrace technology is giving seniors access to a growing ecosystem of life changing tools that are poised to grow in number and get even better at helping them achieve an improved quality of life.
The Agetech Ecosystem
Agetech products vary as widely as aging challenges do. Fall-detection technology has gotten smarter, like SafelyYou‘s artificial intelligence-enabled video services, which not only detect falls, but claim to reduce falls by 40% and related ER visits by 80%. And transportation tech caters to older folks’ specific needs, like HopSkipDrive, an Uber-like service that staffs vetted drivers who have eldercare experience.
Plenty of tools exist to address declining health, such as advanced hearing aids and medication management, but other agetech directly addresses elderly users’ unique social and emotional needs. Cake is one such tool. The platform offers end-of-life support to seniors, including exploring mortality and dealing with grief and loss, as well as help with wills and estate planning.
Existing tech companies are targeting older users as well, with expanded accessibility features, like Apple’s AssistiveTouch, which allows Apple Watch users to execute commands by clenching their fist. Amazon’s Alexa Together service allows Alexa-enabled devices in separate homes to communicate in unique ways, such as activity monitoring, check-in alerts, fall detection, and more, allowing relatives to help support elderly loved ones.
Enabling Aging in Place
The collective impact of this growing ecosystem goes beyond incremental quality-of-life improvements. According to Orlov, any of the technologies that are involved in assisting you in your home – a camera telling you who is at the door, a wearable on your wrist, or a smart speaker – are useful for aging in place. The ability to stay in your home as long as you want is a goal commonly accepted as the ideal situation for elderly individuals.
According to AARP, 77% of adults 50 and older want to remain in their homes for the long term, and nearly half of them say in order to do so, they’ll need upgrades in smart-home devices. Of course, living at home permanently isn’t possible for every senior. But Orlov says many agetech tools are just as helpful in assisted living facilities. “When you’re in your apartment down at the end of the long hall, you can be alone and you are also at risk of falling,” she says.
Some tools are geared toward caregivers, both in-home and facility staff. EarlySense, for example, is a contact-free device that captures residents’ vital signs and biometrics data and communicates with facility staff – a group of workers who need all the help they can get. According to Orlov’s Technology for Aging 2022 Market Overview, staffing remains a challenge, both for at-home care and for senior-living community caregivers.
Continued Opportunities for Agetech Growth
Despite the hundreds of agetech products and services now on the market, Orlov believes the market is far from saturated. “What’s the opposite of saturated?” she asks. So many opportunities remain, says Orlov, not only for new startups that provide solutions to aging challenges, but for improvements in existing technology with accessibility features seniors value.
“User interfaces like the iPad are great examples of a bad design for the elderly,” Orlov points out. “If you just have a slight tremor, it’s harder to find the right part of an iPad to tap.” This leaves older users unable to easily open apps as they miss the icons with their fingers and tap blank space. She says larger icons, or even pop-up alerts explaining to users what’s gone wrong, would improve the experience. Orlov would like to see all tech companies make product testing with older users more commonplace.
Orlov also hopes to see further proliferation of voice-enabled technology married with personalization on smart TVs, speakers, and more. When a senior can ask their TV to turn on the news without getting up, and the TV knows which channel they prefer, it opens the door to a higher quality of life for people through their 80s, 90s, and beyond.
Given the millions of Baby Boomers who are headed in that direction, it’s a safe guess that the agetech market will continue to mature right along with them.