Editor’s Take: 3 Trends Senior Living Should Learn from the Best Buy-GreatCall Deal

Electronics retailer Best Buy’s purchase of GreatCall in August brought the spotlight to the longevity market in a significant manner, and its intentions became even clearer this week, when the company appointed seasoned health care executive Cindy Kent to its board. In a struggling retail landscape, Best Buy is executing a vision that looks to serve Baby Boomers for the next 20 years, and the senior living industry should take notice.

The statement on the GreatCall acquisition by Hubert Joly, chairman and CEO of Best Buy, aligns right alongside the core mission for all senior living providers — ”to improve quality of life in their home”:

“Now, we have a great opportunity to serve the needs of these customers by combining GreatCall’s expertise with Best Buy’s unique merchandising, marketing, sales and services capabilities. We … are excited by the opportunities we have in the health space and the strengths we can bring to bear in this area, especially our experience with technology and serving customers in their home.”


Best Buy, a brand that has been around for decades, has adapted better to the challenging retail landscape than some of its competitors and others that are now out of business, such as Circuit City and Radio Shack. The company’s ability to weather the changes in the technology and retail landscape has focused its business around service delivery with deep expertise on its products.

This isn’t the first move into the senior living industry for Best Buy. Last fall, Best Buy made a move with its Assured Living Suite of smart home sensors and controls, and the GreatCall portfolio will augment the Best Buy strategy beyond the Assured Living Suite’s 21 markets today. GreatCall products, such as the newly unveiled Jitterbug Smart2 smartphone, combine appealing aesthetics and simplicity in addition to senior-friendly features and applications.

Senior living operators, always interested in technology yet still behind in investment and deployment, should take note of the following key trends highlighted by the announcement:


Portable, Affordable Technology Has Staying Power

Given that 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning 65 every day, housing options and desires will change during the next 15-20 years, before this age cohort is considering a move to assisted living. The location of the home, whether it is a single-family home, mobile home, apartment, independent living unit or something else, becomes irrelevant as the technology eco-system is tied to the person via affordable, easy to use consumer technology.

The challenge for senior living communities will be that this new generation of consumer, currently 65-75, will be more comfortable with consumer-grade technology and demand a customer service platform that will be more customizable — they will want to move in not just with GreatCall-style smart devices but with their home theater systems, and they will not respond well to simple conformity to whatever television, campus technology and infrastructure is provided by today’s senior living communities. This requirement would be one more reason NOT to move into a senior living setting.

Awareness, Expectations Rise

By expanding its portfolio of products, Best Buy is bringing proven monitoring technology one step closer to mainstream consumer awareness via its retail footprint, marketing and advertising expertise. Commercials on cable news and late night television — where products aimed at seniors are frequently hawked — pale in comparison to what Best Buy can bring to bear.

In the past, monitoring has been a pejorative term for many, bringing fears of compromised privacy and security. But the added awareness of these types of products, and their increasingly passive nature, will make it easier for operators to have more constructive conversations about what types and levels of monitoring they have available. According to a blog post by AJ McDougall, Vice President – Strategic Growth Office at Best Buy: “We looked at several options, and we felt strongly that we didn’t want to use wearable devices or cameras. We want our elders to feel very independent. We just need to know they’re still safe and secure when we’re not there.”

Ubiquitous Sales and Support

Best Buy’s retail strategy provides a bricks and clicks experience that will appeal to both Baby Boomers and their adult children. Boomers want a high-tech, high-touch personalized service, which should be delivered by blending the expertise and customer service acumen of GreatCall with Best Buy’s retail selling experience and service delivery system. This combination brings together a comprehensive experience from discovery, on-boarding and continuing service delivery, providing a means to go deeper into the health and well-being of the consumer.

Many consumers, both young and old, still like to touch, feel and see the product in-store, and the physical retail footprint of Best Buy provides this. It is also a means for family members who aren’t in close proximity to their parents to research online, then go to a store to see a demo. This should give them confidence in the experience that the product will deliver, and this confidence should be bolstered by the installation and consultation services that extend to the home.

This is an approach that senior living providers should be fostering every day — namely, looking at interactions to take a consultative approach, observing and providing support and solutions for older adults and their families besides simply providing a roof overhead.

The Long Run

The longer-term opportunities for Best Buy extend beyond simply serving the growing consumer base of older adults.

Over time, as data from wearables and other technology is collected and examined, health systems and payers will look toward successful consumer deployments and platforms as a means to enter the market with immediate scale, seeing that tech as a means to gain access to valuable information as well as another lever to manage population health. With 900,000 subscribers,GreatCall has certainly learned a lot about what consumers want when it comes to aging in place and is surely looking 5 to 10 years ahead as to what the combined companies can deliver.


I wrote this article myself and it expresses my own opinions. Senior Housing News has a business relationship GreatCall.

Written by George Yedinak

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