Tech companies are targeting the burgeoning market for older adults, but some of their products are doubtful at best.
This Belt is Not Hip
The No. 1 cause of injuries and death from injury for older Americans is falls, according to a report by the Population Research Bureau. In 2014 alone, 29 million falls by older Americans cost Medicare $30 billion.
French company Helite is marketing a fall protection belt that inflates like an airbag when a fall is detected. Currently available in the European Union, the Hip’Safe is slated to premiere in the States in September. The belt is light, easy to put on and comfortable to wear. A beeper alerts the user if the belt is worn the wrong way, and arrows offer guidance when it’s buckled. What’s not to like?
For starters, the price is more than €800, which is equivalent to $934 here in the U.S. Good luck getting Medicare to cover that, especially when you’d have to wear the thing 24/7 to be effective.
Although the Hip’Safe is not as obvious as, say, bubble-wrapping your entire midsection, it’s going to be noticeable in anything other than a Mumu with tulle underskirts. There will be no hiding it, although you could try to pass it off as a money belt for the VERY wealthy who insist on buying that next yacht in nothing but small bills.
It’s also going to be a pain in the rear when nature calls, in particular for the ladies. Do you shimmy it up above your waist and hope it stays, or take it off and then have to buckle back up? And if you’re in a public bathroom, do you sling it over the door while you take care of business, or stuff it in your monster-size purse?
The website homepage shows an older man and woman smiling, each carrying a grandchild on their shoulders … but what the heck are they doing that for if they’re at heightened risk of falling?! If one of them goes down, they will be left on the ground while the little kid is rushed to the hospital, so yes, they need to have their hip belt on! Maybe each of the grandkids should have a Hip’Safe device wrapped around their head. Clearly, somebody at corporate has not thought this through.
Tech Flops at Brookdale
Brookdale Senior Living tests new technology in its facilities via an ongoing Entrepreneur in Residence program.
One idea Brookdale thought would be a huge hit was the body dryer. Resembling a photo booth or shower stall, the huge dryer can dry off a user in just a few minutes with soothing warm air and heat lamps. Developed by Care Dryers, the device was installed in a model apartment. Brookdale theorized that it would cut down on caregiver labor, reduce towel laundry and be gentler on delicate skin.
But the dryer sparked very little interest.
“We made the mistake of putting the dryer in a model apartment and asking residents if they would come in to experience the dryer,” Smith explained. “We attempted to get residents to agree to taking their shower in the model apartment and then using the body dryer. Not one resident agreed to take a shower in the model apartment and then use the body dryer. …If we did it over again, we would put the dryer in one of our spas.”
What were they thinking!?