Technology is advancing quickly, providing many benefits in the realm of entertainment, efficiency, socializing and much more. However, the glut of technology options is currently complicating the design landscape, especially as it relates to offering housing for independently aging in place.
Ryan Frederick, founder and CEO at Smart Living 360 and a speaker at the 2016 HIVE conference, talks to us about this problem. “Although there is access to these technologies, there is no common system pulling them together to make it friendly from a user perspective or from a payment perspective,” Frederick says. “We haven’t reached the tipping point for technology and health payment methods to be a cohesive, holistic system that we can easily capture into housing design to make aging in place easier for home buyers.”
Right now, the technologies are flooding the health scene with tools like Fitbits, smart scales, active medical alert monitors, predictive analytics, and prescription monitoring, along with cognitive wellness programs. Maybe it’s the pace and maybe it’s the market segmentation, but either way, users and designers have not found a formula that works.
The future, however, is exciting. There is a promise of change that brings with it some unbelievable technologies like drug prescriptions designed specifically for your DNA. There also are revolutionary ideas based around the internet of things with data that can be tracked through a Fitbit, smart scale, or other device to directly communicate to a care giver. For instance, Philips offers a HealthSuite that collects, compiles and analyzes clinical data from a variety of sources for a caregiver to monitor. Plus, the data can show a trend or a warning sign, which offers a value that extends well beyond hospital walls.
In order to make independent living as we age a standard, easy practice, the building and housing community needs to create housing that offers a place to keep people healthy and well outside of health care institutions. “As we start thinking about the development of these building models, we also have to remain flexible for the changes that will need to happen in design," Frederick says.
Another thing that could impact the design landscape would be the move from a fee for service payment model to a capitated model, where health care providers are assigned a group of people per a period of time, regardless of whether those patients are seeking care. This would result in situations where whole populations are being monitored and serviced together, which could trigger a wave of next generation models.
“Right now the payment methods are too complex,” Frederick states. “For example, let’s say you are a 70 year old. It would make sense to have a monitoring unit and be plugged into club health to be able to talk to a physician. However, currently, these things don’t necessarily work together. Today, consumers are not taking full advantage of these tools. In time, as they become simpler and consumers see the benefit, we can expect behaviors to shift.”
In the meantime, Frederick points out that there are some current technologies that are adding value to the independent aging in place process, such as nonobtrusive programs that send information to physicians in addition to community amenities like lifestyle ambassadors, food delivery services, health coaches, and telehealth clinics to check and monitor vitals.
When thinking about designing for the future, Frederick says an important part of successfully incorporating these technologies is broadband. Communities need high-quality streaming for multiple users. Bandwidth is going to be more important over time. Ryan points out that design innovation most likely will follow the Tesla model, where the hardware is in place in the infrastructure and the individual user can control on a whim by updating software or customizing to their preferences. So, updates to software can happen behind the scenes without an impact on the current design.
There continue to be opportunities to innovate in the intersection of consumer and clinical spaces. Consumers will become more comfortable with someone watching over them and the demand for integrated solutions, systems, connected devices, data and analytics will provide solutions.
“It’s going to be fun to watch the internet of things grow into the internet of aging well things,” Frederick says. “At the same time, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of communities to enhance face-to-face social connection and other dimensions of well-being that clever building design and operations can create for residents.”
Join the conversation on aging in place independently with Frederick at HIVE 2016, Sept. 28 and 29 in Los Angeles. He joins author Sarah Susanka, architects Matthias Hollwich and Ross Chapin, and AARP director on livable communities and housing Rodney Harrell to solve for this incredibly important issue. Register now.