and EBay Inc., erred by ramping up too quickly and selling directly to consumers, rather than through established industry partners, according to Laurie Orlov, founder of industry researcher Aging in Place Technology Watch.
The company fizzled and was quietly acquired last year by United Health Group Inc., which layers the personal touch of wellness coaching from trained dietitians and exercise physiologists on top of the smart-home network for a month.
“This market has been held back because there is a lack of consumer brands in this space,” Inns says.
That could change as more companies begin targeting customers like Helgesen, who broke her toe just weeks before she got the smart-home setup.
By 2020 about 45 million Americans will be caring for 117 million seniors, spending on everything from food delivery to safety and health monitors.
Research by the AARP and consultants Parks Associates found that caregivers will spend an average of 9 annually for each person they tend to by 2021, a 69 percent increase from 2016. Caregivers are typically busy with their own kids and jobs, so beyond the direct spending lies an additional 2 billion annually in income lost because of time spent on elder care, the Rand Corp. Three out of four caregivers want to use technology to make their duties easier, but only 7 percent have actually done so, according to a 2016 study sponsored by AARP and others. “When you think of home health care, you don’t think of Best Buy,” says John Hopper, chief investment officer of Ziegler Link-Age Longevity Fund LP, which invests in companies targeting seniors.
She even got rid of the sensor in her favorite living-room chair soon after it was installed because she didn’t think it was needed.
The electronics retailer, which sells an entry-level package of gear for 9.96 (installation costs an extra 9), also provides a monitoring service for a month.
Helgesen’s home is a proving ground for this fledgling unit, called Assured Living, now open for business in Denver as well as the Twin Cities area.
One of those is Great Call, which has offered its senior-friendly phones and medical-alert devices at Best Buy for about a decade.
Great Call CEO David Inns says he welcomes the competition as a sign that senior care is “finally becoming sexy.” He thinks the entry of companies with established marketing savvy will help all players.