By Brenda Reginatto, Research Lead, Care Team, ARCH

I had an interesting chat with a colleague a while back about how, despite the current hype in the health tech industry, events and conferences specific about technology for elder care often fail to attract large numbers of technology developers and entrepreneurs. Looks like, despite its importance, developing solutions for older people is just not sexy enough for this crowd.

Think about all the cool solutions that have emerged in recent years in this space. Think about sleek looking activity tracking devices like Fitbit or any of the Withings product range. Think about apps like MyFitnessPal which motivates millions of people to pursue healthier lifestyles. Think about the different iHealth products which allow you to measure your blood sugar, blood pressure or blood oxygen levels while using beautifully designed devices. These companies are doing a great job in terms of turning things like eating healthy, exercising and monitoring your vital signs, perceived by many as tough or boring, into something social, fun and cool. So why can’t we do the same for elder care?

Unfortunately, for many, elder care is still a topic to avoid. On a personal level, a large number of people don’t want to think about ‘ageing’ until they are about to retire or suddenly find themselves caring for an older relative. On a professional level, many find the idea of working with older people dull or depressing. If you consider these perceptions, it is not hard to understand why developing technology for people with dementia or caregivers, for example, fail to appeal to the majority.

I think one of the problems here is that we keep talking about older people as if they were this separate entity that never has anything to do with us. We often forget that we are all (hopefully) going to age ourselves, and many of us will care for an older relative before that. To me it seems obvious that innovation in elder care should be seen as something super exciting since we are all potential users and consumers of these solutions. I certainly want my ‘elderhood’ to be as awesome as my child and adulthood were and I believe you should feel the same. So it is about time we start thinking more seriously about ways of turning elder care into something really cool, something to be celebrated rather than avoided.

Thankfully, there are some signs of change. Start-ups like Honor, Lively or Lift Labs are showing us that services and products targeting older adults can be exciting, sleek looking and make people feel good about themselves. Now we need this to be the norm rather than the exception.

So I guess my questions to you are: How do we get more technology developers and entrepreneurs interested in creating awesome solutions for older people and their caregivers? In other words, how do we make elder care sexy?

You can contact Brenda on brenda.reginatto@ucd.ie or call 01 716 5403.

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