AARP Sees Tech as Solution to Caregiver Crisis

With 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 very day, the caregiving market is set to explode, presenting a $279 billion opportunity in the coming years.

The key to caring for America’s seniors and tapping into this enormous marketplace is technology, according to a recent report from AARP, Caregivers & Technology: What They Want and Need.

The majority of caregivers—71%—want to use technology to supplement their duties and assist in caring for loved ones, but not many are using technology now, AARP finds. 

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There are roughly 40 million family caregivers in the United States, and more than half are at least 50 years old. The other half are part of the millennial generation and generation X. 

“This presents a tremendous opportunity to innovate technologies that serve unmet needs and to leapfrog current offerings with better approaches,” the report reads.

From assisting with activities of daily living (ADL), such as bathing, dressing and eating, to the varied tasks associated with daily living, including driving shopping and managing medications, technology can seriously support caregiver duties. 

The top five tasks that caregivers in the report were most interested in using technology to support were:

  • Medication refill and pickup (79.1% said they were interested)
  • Making and supervising medical appointments (77.9%)
  • Assessing health needs and conditions (77.5%)
  • Ensuring home safety (77.5%)
  • Monitoring medication adherence (77.2%)

Why Current Usage is Low

While only a small portion of caregivers are already using technology that support their duties—just 7%, according to AARP—most are likely to start using some technology functions, especially if it was provided to them. However, fewer caregivers said they were likely to use technology than those who said they were interested.

“While 79% of caregivers reported being interested in using technology, 59% of caregivers report being likely to use existing technology, suggesting that technology that is currently available on the marketplace does not adequately meet their needs,” the report finds.  

The lowest number of caregivers said they were likely to use technology for shopping for assisted living and special care services. However, for this function, the lowest number represented nearly half of caregivers in the report. For senior living providers with advanced technology functions for families to shop for assisted living, that’s still good news.

“It’s promising for innovators that even the functions with the least amount of interest still handily half of surveyed caregivers reporting themselves being likely to use these technologies,” the report stated. 

If applied to the 40 million Americans caregivers out there, that’s a huge market for the assisted living sector. 

There are also a number of barriers to widen adoption of caregiving technology the report found, including a lack of awareness, cost, perception that technology won’t actually improve caregiving and lack of time and resources to learn new softwares and functions. While these represent significant hurdles for the senior living industry, there is a great deal to be positive about, particularly as younger generations become caregivers. 

“We see a strong likelihood of this younger, rising and tech-friendly generation of caregivers to seek, adopt and share technologies that support their caregiving responsibilities,” AARP found.  

As younger generations are already actively using technology as part of their daily lives, the interest of tech use skews toward future caregivers.

“Innovators can be optimistic about developing technologies that make a meaningful impact on the broad population of America’s caregivers because rates of caregivers already using or likely to use available technology are far higher among millennials and Generation Y than those 50+,” AARP reported. 

Above all, caregivers are most interested in technology that enables them to “untether” them from needing to observe their loved one at all times to ensure “in case anything happens.” Technology that alerts caregivers when a loved one needs urgent attention also has high potential. 

“Caregivers really do want the ability to detect emergency events,” AARP noted. “But they aren’t willing to purchase, setup or use bulky and expensive technology (especially if it requires upkeep) just to get alerted for a rare event. They want near-invisbile or barely-there solutions that they don’t have to think about until the need it.”  

Written by Amy Baxter

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