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How Will Technology Impact Senior Living in 2020? Here Are the Top 5 Predictions

By Derek Holt and Kuldip Pabla

Over the last year, we have seen technology play an even bigger role in the senior living industry than we ever have before. So much so, it has truly spurred a broad digital transformation throughout the industry. In order to continue to serve our nation’s older adults — which the U.S. Census Bureau projects this segment of the population will grow to 95 million by the year 2060 and comprise nearly a quarter of the population — the industry must evolve with the help of technology.

In 2020, we expect to see:

The Expansion of a “Beyond Campus” Model in Senior Living: We’ll see senior living transform the way universities did in the early 2000s with the introduction of online education.

The top 25 online/distance education universities are also top traditional universities. While there was hesitancy towards this new digitally-driven model at first, their dorms are still full, their campuses active, their traditional business model is still intact. Further, with roughly the same fixed assets and costs they’re now able to offer online education to a different set of customers, expanding both their mission to educate and driving new, highly profitable revenue streams.

In 2020, senior living communities will follow suit: offering membership services, at home and homecare/home health services for older adults outside the walls of the traditional community.  This will allow older adults to leverage certain services (wellness, meals, activities), gain access to care coordination and provide an expanded definition of “community.” Like universities, traditional communities who lean into this opportunity will be able to extend their mission, increase revenue and ultimately enhance the lives of more older adults.

The Impact of Technology on Senior Living’s Critical Mid-Market: It’s no secret that older adults in the “mid-market” (deigned as neither low nor high income older adults) have long been broadly underserved by traditional senior living. In fact, by 2029, middle-income people 75+ or those in “mid-market” are expected to comprise 43 percent of the total population of people that age. The need is real, but the question remains: how do we rethink “traditional communities” to serve this demographic? In 2020, we’ll see this challenge solved by technology-powered communities.

Historically, there has been a misconception that technology is only for high-end communities and, ultimately, just a cost center. However, as technology becomes democratized and shifts from a nice-to-have to direct ROI, it will power future mid-market solutions. Technology will provide cost savings from smart buildings, reduced labor costs through automation/predictive analytics/situational awareness, smart wellness-enhanced care, supplemental on-demand services that offload the community (such as transportation), etc. These optimizations will also enable more moderate pricing, resulting in a better-served mid-market of older adults.

The Evolving Utility of Proactive Voice: Voice technology will become an integral part of older adults’ lives with proactive voice. Current voice solutions require conversation to be initiated by an older adult. Advancements in voice technologies, the maturity of chatbots and custom digital assistants coming into the market, will introduce two-way conversation in 2020. Chatbots and digital assistants will be able to initiate conversation based on time of day and events. For instance, if Smart Home (i.e., bed sensors) senses that an older adult got up from their bed, it could greet the older adult with the day’s itinerary if it’s morning. It could offer help if the older adult got up from bed during the middle of the night. It can offer companionship or even act as an intelligent social gossip. Similarly, voice will offer many more natural features such as casual medication reminders—supplementing caretakers or loved ones.

The Increased Role of Machine Learning: There is an abundance of healthcare data available via government records, health care professionals, pharmacies, or insurance companies. Certain companies are already making use of this data to predict health issues and prescribe medication or lifestyle changes. However, what they don’t have is access to behavioral data of older adults. With Smart Home making inroads into senior living, in 2020 we’ll see the confluence of healthcare and behavioral data leading to improved prediction accuracy and better services for older adults. This will eventually result in making older adults’ lives happier and healthier.

The Emergence of WiFi Doppler Imaging: PERS devices and fall detection devices have been hyped for a long time now, but they have failed to deliver on their promises. However,  WiFi Doppler Imaging brings new possibilities—a technology that uses the WiFi signal to generate imaging data that can be interpreted into insights about the movements of people and objects within a given environment. With academia and industry working on making fall detection less intrusive, it stands a higher chance of success over the next couple of years.

With the ever-increasing use of technology by communities, staff and residents, the year 2020 will be an exciting year for innovation in senior living.

About the Authors: At K4Connect, Derek Holt serves as President and Chief Operating Officer, and Kuldip Pabla serves as the Senior Vice President of Engineering. K4Connect is a purpose-driven technology company that creates solutions that serve and empower older adults and those living with a disability.