Monday, March 11, 2013

Marketplace for Aging

The Aging Marketplace has a great variety of hope and hype. In the last decade we have seen a huge base of products being developed to improve the lives of aging consumers. There are now cell phones for elders featuring large buttons and simple calling plans. Most stores now conveniently offer products that focus on independent living for seniors, like shower chairs and walkers, including local chain stores like Fred Meyer and Walgreens. An article in Mechanical Engineering, called “New Wheels for Grandma,” focuses on automotive improvements made to aid in the safety of senior drivers. A Lear Corp’s concept car, includes a pivoting, sliding platform for loading golf clubs into the trunk. Low-light color cameras in a Taurus Safety Car allow drivers to see vehicles or pedestrians in blind spots. Ford adds dimples and bumps to its controls to aid in distinguishing by touch alone. Cadillac uses ultrasound to calculate distance of the car from the object behind it. However, along with the advancements in the aging marketplace, there continues to be room for improvements.
Prescription bottles are one source of problems for elders. Firstly, the labels are often printed too small for elders to read. Additionally, as the Huffington Post points out in their July 6th, 2012 article titled, “Drugs & Seniors: Post 50s Overlook Key Warning Labels, “inconsistent design lends to misreading warnings or overlooking important instructions all together.” An additional problem with prescription drugs for seniors, are the bottles themselves. For those with arthritis, oftentimes the safety lids can make the bottles difficult to open. Although there are lids that are easier for senior with arthritis to open, not all are made aware of the options to have those easy open lids used for their prescription bottles. As SeniorCareServices.org explains in their “Prescription Medication: Keeping Seniors Safe and Sound” article, “Ask the pharmacist for easy open caps, large print labels, and sometimes oversize bottles may be necessary.” The aging marketplace has advanced in offering tools that can be purchased for seniors as highlighted by Arthritis Today in their article “Opening Medicine Bottles with Ease.” Most notably is the “PurrFect Medicine Opener Magnet” which is shaped like a cat, and opens a variety of bottles in a variety of ways for a reasonable price of $9.95.
However, the cat shaped bottle opener brings up one flaw with the aging marketplace, that many senior focused products are either designed to be childlike (and thus not very dignified) or are so focused on utility that they are embarrassingly unstylish. Take the GPS shoes that are developed to protect elders with dementia from wandering and becoming lost. The shoe incorporates a sneaker design, which is not very appropriate for most daily activities, except running perhaps. For a sophisticated senior lady wearing a nice dress, the GPS shoes would be extremely inappropriate and tacky. There are bed rails to protect seniors from falling from bed during sleep, but one design appears like prison bars, complete with black metal rails. For this monstrosity, one must shell out $117.40. One would imagine that seniors with sweethearts that spend the night, this would not be an appealing item to decorate one’s bedroom with. Alarm watches made for seniors that vibrate or talk for medication reminders, mostly look cheap and crude. On ModernSeniorProducts.com, a senior alarm wrist watches page shows a small offering of just 11 watches to choose from, of which only 2 look tasteful enough that one would be able to wear the watch to a formal event.
Considering that persons ages “65 years or older numbered 39.6 million in 2009”, a population that continues to grow, according to the Administration on Aging, one would think that products available for seniors would be look better and appeal to dignity. As a Huffington Post article describes it, “Baby Boomers Will Transform Aging in America.” In the same article, Dr. Rhonda Randall, the chief medical officer of united Health Care says, “Boomers also have a "fierce" desire to remain independent, which will lead to an expansion of organizations offering home- and community-based care.” Boomers have a desire to live better. As Ken Dychtwald, president and CEO of AgeWave explains, “a new model of life is emerging”…”They are going back to school at 40 and coming back from illness to run a marathon at 80. They are beginning as late bloomers and hitting their stride in later years.” It’s clear that baby boomers will set new standards for the aging marketplace of the future. Hopefully, along with it will come sensible, stylish product lines that contribute to healthy living and promote dignity.

Have you seen design innovations for the silver market that you loved or hated? 
How about any products that you haven't seen that you'd like to see for seniors?