Aging in Place Goes High Tech


Aging in Place Goes High Tech

January 25, 2021

COVID-19 has upended daily life in dozens of ways. Virtual learning has gone mainstream, and millions now work from home. Few are choosing to travel, and simple errands like grocery shopping have become far more complex. These changes are challenging enough on their own, but for many, the pandemic isn’t their only concern. A large number of families are simultaneously addressing the basic safety issues that come as loved ones age. 

The senior population in the United States is growing rapidly with the oldest members of the massive baby boomer generation turning 75 in 2021. Many in this group are reconsidering their living arrangements in light of changes in their health, the limited availability of in-home support, and concerns for their ability to stay safe. 

These safety concerns have caught the attention of companies that focus on delivering effective health and safety solutions through cutting-edge technology. They understand that incorporating functionality into family safety apps targeted at supporting seniors’ ability to age in place could dramatically decrease common risks and increase the quality of life. Such features are the logical next step in family services strategies, as high demand means a lucrative market opportunity for MNOs. 

The Growing Trend Towards Multi-Generational Households 

Senior living facilities, whether they serve independent residents or those who need extensive support, have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Communal living is notorious for rapid virus transmission, and many of these types of facilities have been the center of devastating outbreaks. As a result, a growing group of seniors have elected to move in with family members rather than risk exposure to the novel coronavirus. 

This trend has changed how families use wireless services. There are more members in family plans, which means more phones, lines, and services per family and passwords to manage. That’s good news for wireless carriers, as they benefit from increased subscriber loyalty and growing revenues. 

Enhanced Demand for Home Health Services 

With the trend towards aging in place gaining speed, the most innovative carriers are considering new methods to ensure they maximize the opportunity. For example, they are expanding features specifically dedicated to the health and safety of seniors. This is particularly timely, as COVID-19 has increased the need for home health monitoring at the same time home care workers are in short supply. 

Between caring for COVID patients, supporting testing and vaccination efforts, and surviving their own COVID diagnoses, healthcare employees are overwhelmed. In some areas, the entire system is at its breaking point, and patients simply can’t get the care they need. 

Advanced technology can alleviate some of the stress on the healthcare system – and ensure the safety of seniors – by automating basic tasks so that family members can monitor their loved ones’ well-being and safety. This technology is comparatively affordable, and it can be used to remotely monitor the wellbeing and location of seniors that opt to age in place alone. Some examples of aging in place technology includes: automatic notifications triggered by fall detection; location monitoring and visibility into location timelines; driver safety monitoring and personalized driver scores; safety area notifications triggered when a person enters or leaves a specified geographic area.

The Opportunity for Wireless Carriers

Wireless carriers have an opportunity to take on a leadership role in improving health and safety for seniors. As providers of smartphones and wireless service plans, they are well-positioned to capitalize on the rising demand for aging in place technology. 

For example, wireless carriers may choose to develop wraparound family services packages by adding a Digital Health feature to existing Family Safety offerings. Such premium family safety services packages differentiate MNO apps from the OTT competition by providing several in-demand features within the same app interface.

The availability of in-demand, next-generation family safety services leads to increases in the value and size of family plans as more devices and services are added. Better still, these deeper relationships boost subscriber “stickiness” – they are far less likely to consider switching to alternative providers.

SafePath® – A Digital Safety Solution for the Whole Family

Solutions like Smith Micro’s SafePath Platform make it possible for wireless carriers to maximize this opportunity by delivering effective technology-based solutions for aging in place. The SafePath Platform extends the user base of family safety apps beyond parents and school-aged children to include senior family members. 

The SafePath Platform comes with the advantage of being easy-to-use and unobtrusive, which increases its appeal. As senior citizens, Baby Boomers are much more tech-savvy than previous generations, and they have demonstrated their willingness to use health monitoring and safety technology when it is simple and convenient.

The most popular SafePath features include GPS-based safety areas, activity history and location timeline, collision detection, and driver safety monitoring. These serve to protect seniors while preserving their independence, which gives loved ones ongoing peace of mind.