Initial Read from 2013 CES: Hope Grows Brighter for Seniors & Family Caregivers

Connected health – connected homes – even connected cars are taking center stage in Las Vegas. Well, maybe not CENTER stage, because that seems reserved for this year’s star attraction, mobile.

Yes, after much fanfare and a long build up, including from us, 2013 CES (the big consumer electronics wonderland) is here! This year seems even bigger than we’ve seen before, which we did not imagine was possible.

We’re here scouting out what’s new for seniors and family caregivers – – which again seems as much as anything to be a matter of “here it comes but it’s not quite here yet.” Yes, you’ve heard that from us before, but this year there seems to be a positive difference in what we’re seeing.

Focus on Communications and Engagement with Consumers & Our Needs

Make that two big positive differences. The first is communicating with – – and listening to – – consumers and reacting to the needs and wants that have so often gone unheard and/or ignored. We’ve heard that broadly in the 24 hours of CES as well as at the first stop on our trip, New Media Expo (NMX).

NMX is largely a different group of people, with some overlap (like your Senior Care Corner team), and many are the communications people at businesses large and not-so-large. Still, it’s clear from the participation of a growing number of businesses at NMX that communicating with customers and potential customers where they are communicating, be it on Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or even traditional media.

Engagement – – not just talking, not just listening, but communicating together – – between businesses and us as consumers gives the businesses the ability to deliver what we need without having to guess or impose what they think we need. The evidence is growing that they are not just engaging but delivering on what they hear us express as needs.

Focus on Seniors’ Needs Improving

Our lament the last couple of years has been that not enough of the best and brightest people and companies were focused on the needs of our senior loved ones and us as family caregivers. That surprised us because it has been clear there has been “plenty” in two areas upon which businesses thrive, plenty of need for products and plenty of ability to pay (at least relative to other customer segments). That’s not intended as a knock on the great companies and products available now, just recognition that much more innovation was possible and needed.

This year we seem to have turned the corner, with some of the biggest tech companies putting time and money into product development and partnerships. Granted, seniors aren’t being specifically targeted by all of it, but we’ll take the benefits anyway.

Can Mobile Crush Healthcare Costs?

One of the key need and cost areas for seniors and families is healthcare, which is the topic of many of the conference sessions at the 2013 CES. One particular session focused on the digital health revolution, with speakers including Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra and Dr. Reed Tuckson, Chief of Medical Affairs for UnitedHealth Group.

One of the key points of the session was that mobile technology as applied to healthcare has the opportunity to “blow up” healthcare costs, finally allowing them to come under control. It also has the capability to bring needed healthcare services to those in underserved areas.

Certainly seniors aren’t the customer segment driving the mobile market, though the number of older seniors using mobile, including smartphones and tablets, is growing rapidly and many more baby boomers are bringing their mobile devices with them into their senior years.

We see seniors benefitting from mobile health in a big way, especially those who want to age in place in their own homes even longer than might be possible today. Family caregivers, whether nearby or distant, can also benefit from having greater access to information when needed to help senior loved ones understand their situation or advocate for their needs. Of course, we can’t understate the peace of mind benefits from knowing our loved ones aren’t on their own if something happens that threatens their health or safety.

We’ve just scratched the surface of what a week of CES has to offer, but we see reason for optimism that we’ll have a lot of positive progress to report in upcoming posts and podcasts.

See you then!

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