Connecting with friends. Shopping. Staying informed on current events. Booking transportation. Checking in on loved ones. There are a lot of reasons why retirees today are embracing technology more and more.
Approximately seventy percent of older adults now have an internet connection and fifty-one percent have purchased some kind of tech product in the last year. Even with that considered, it would still surprise some to learn that this demographic is adopting new technology at a rate similar to the younger generations.
In some ways, this is fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a quick shift towards digital communications. However, these trends were already rising before; an AARP study showed that smartphone adoption rates over the last two years jumped from 70% to 77% in older adults.
So, today’s retirees are embracing technology. And technology is embracing them back. The spending power of people over the age of 60 is projected to reach $15 trillion annually beginning this year (2020). It should come as no surprise that there is a wealth of companies and products sprouting up in the aging and silver tech industries.
A Renaissance of Silver Tech?
During this time of increased interest in the aging industry, companies are attempting (and succeeding in some cases) to innovate how we approach some of the biggest issues facing retirement and eldercare. Topics such as independence, household management, health, and loneliness are all being explored and examined.
The increased focus and interest on this demographic didn’t come out of the blue. Remember: money follows trends. As we’ve discussed previously, humans are living longer than ever before. This generation of elders is healthier and more relevant than those who came before them. We’re not only asking what we should do with these additional years, but how can we add more life to them. The current generation of elders are thinking differently about their golden years and want to foster more of The Good Life.
In recent years, we’ve seen a massive increase in technology and products that offer solutions to some of the issues of aging. From self-driving cars to socks that alert your doctor about your health, it’s an exciting time to be an elder.
So, without further ado, here is a list of the most compelling products, companies, and services that are helping innovate eldercare and retirement.
Driving is one of life’s greatest joys. It’s also a great source of independence and adventure. That said, as we get older, for some us, driving becomes inaccessible. Luckily, some fantastic new options make mobility accessible to anyone, regardless of age.
- Self-driving cars may once have been a science fiction dream, but they are now very much a modern reality. Tesla has already made Auto-Pilot a standard feature in all of its new vehicles. Still, drivers interested in the Full Self-Driving Capability can request that feature as well. Other companies like AutoX are building an AI-powered vehicle to provide universal access to transportation for people of all ages.
- Autonomous shuttles, like May Mobility, are popping up around the country to help lighten traffic congestion and make transportation smoother in urban areas.
- Ridesharing through companies like Uber and Lyft have made getting from point A to point B as simple as opening an app on your smartphone.
Strangely, in our overly-connected world, social isolation is a real problem facing all generations, but it especially affects elders. Research shows that loneliness can cause health problems such as high blood pressure, depression, and heart disease. That said, retirees have a wealth of options to help them connect with loved ones, members in their communities, and even new romantic interests.
- Connecting with family and friends (both new and old) has never been easier. Through products like Zoom and Skype, we can now see and schedule face-to-face time with our loved ones on a regular basis. The social media network Facebook recently launched a new communication device called the Facebook Portal, which allows you to video call people on your friend list.
- Regardless of age, dating isn’t easy. But finding someone you have an authentic romantic connection makes it worth the trouble. OurTime is a website specifically for people ages 50+. It’s not your usual dating site; it recognizes that people in our age demographic are looking for something different than they were in their 20s. OurTime’s is different than other dating sites—their mission is to “honor the freedom, wisdom and appreciation for life that only comes with time” and connect people looking to celebrate this exciting stage of life together.
Work & Income
Living a longer life means that we’re retired for longer—which is great! But it comes with a caveat: you’re going to need additional income in retirement. That doesn’t mean we have to continue working full-time, but having extra cash will significantly help you in your retired years. Technology has created tools and platforms that make earning additional income in retirement easy.
- The Sharing Economy has made providing goods and services to your local community easy and profitable. Airbnb has revolutionized how people travel by creating a platform that lets homeowners rent out their houses to tourists. Similar to Airbnb, Silvernest is a platform that helps older homeowners rent out rooms in their homes. Silvernest uses smart technology to pair you with potential roommates through compatibility tools and background checks. For retirees who love driving, companies like Uber and Lyft also present an excellent opportunity to earn additional income. You can make your own hours, meet new people, and explore the town you live in.
- Retirees looking to freelance or consult will find great options in companies like Upwork, Fiverr, and Guru. All three companies are remote talent platforms that connect consultants and freelancers to companies looking to hire for projects.
As we age, our health comes more into focus. Maintaining a healthy emotional and physical state is more important now than ever. There is a lot of discussion around using exercises like yoga to help your body age more comfortably. There are also new products that help extend the longevity of your brain in your later years.
- Emotional health may not be on the top of your health list, but it’s equally important to physical health, especially during elderhood. BetterHelp is a website and application that connects users with professional therapists, some of who are specially trained in aging and eldercare.
- Meditation and practicing mindfulness are two great methods to manage stress and help your mind and body age healthily. There are a lot of emerging platforms and applications around this space. However, Headspace and Calm are two industry leaders with a wealth of offerings to fit your style and mood.
- We are living in an exciting time when engineers are developing smart clothing that not only detects and tracks your activity levels, but also alerts your family or doctor when there’s an issue. For example, Siren Socks are a foot monitoring system that your doctor prescribes to you that continuously measures your foot temperature and provides your doctor with information that can help them identify signs of inflammation or injury.
- Apple Watch has a built-in app that can detect if you fall and contact emergency services if you do not respond within a minute of the alert. Outside of the Apple Watch, there is a wealth of other smartwatches built to help elders live more comfortably and safely. While not in the market yet, scientists are developing “smart glasses” that discretely remind people with dementia who they are talking to and what medication they need to take, and at what time.
Staying in our homes as we grow older is a gift. And technology is now making it easier to do so. Whether it is an appliance that can turn itself off or a household management tool that makes getting chores done easier, retirees have a lot of great options these days.
- If you’re considering updating your appliances, we highly recommend you jump on the “smart appliance” trend. Smart appliances are built to help cut energy costs and maintenance efforts for retirees. For example, the THINQ Fridge is a refrigerator that connects to your smartphone or AI device. It sends you notifications if you leave the door open and has a “vacation mode”, which is an energy-saving feature you can turn on when you’re planning on being out of the house for a few days.
- Robotic cleaners are helping take the effort out of household chores. The Looj, for example, is a robot that cleans your gutters. Braava is a robot that specializes in sweeping and wet mopping to help keep floors clean. The LG HOM-BOT™ is a silent, wifi-connected robotic vacuum with cameras that ensure it never misses a spot.
- Household management is also seeing innovation thanks to companies like Rinse and Join Papa. Rinse is a full-service laundry subscription that offers dry cleaning, washing and folding, and hang drying. All you have to do is schedule a pickup, and they take care of the rest. We’ve written about Join Papa before, but it’s worth mentioning again because their services are so great! Join Papa pairs retirees and elders with “Papa Pals” for companionship and assistance with everyday tasks. So if you’re feeling lonely or you just need some help with groceries, Join Papa is an excellent personalized service.
When we reflect on how much the world has changed during our short lifetime, it’s very easy to feel inspired about the future. With so many emerging options to consider, the future of aging is looking pretty bright.