It's time mHealth tech stops ignoring a prime consumer base: The elderly

The holiday season is just around the corner and everyone, except diehard procrastinators, is either well into gift buying or at least gearing up for Black Friday this week. I suspect more than a few have some sort of mHealth wearable product on the gift list and for most it's been a matter of deciphering what smartband, smartwatch or fitness wearable the exercise guru or health-conscious family member would love to get this year.

In my case however, it's a matter of finding a device made for the older generation--a 93-year-old, to be specific, who doesn't own a smartphone, has never worked a computer and whose age makes small electronics, with all their tiny buttons and sensitive touch capabilities, quite a formidable challenge. Especially including that he's a World War II veteran who lost his right hand during the Normandy invasion after returning to the front lines following a gun shot to the chest.

It struck me, as I check out the dozens of options online and offline, that the mHealth technology revolution may be leaving out, or even simply ignoring, a very large consumer base: the elderly. Today's wearables and device makers are aiming products at the young and hip, the fashionable and the wealthy, the ones with nimble fingers and perfect eyesight.

Sure my Dad can handle the blood pressure cuff kiosk at the local pharmacy, but setting up a fitness band that comes with less than three pages of instruction and which seems to believe everyone has worked some sort of mobile computing device is just not feasible. Yet, he of all people would benefit the most from such technology. He's extremely healthy, has just one daily prescription for blood pressure, is at a perfect weight and an avid learner and interested in what's going on in health innovations.

What's most surprising is that his generation, as well as Baby Boomers and even Generation Xers, are user populations that mHealth tech can truly help--yet many of the devices and innovations are out of their reach, whether it's a challenging user interface or the price point.

I understand why the Googles and the Apples of wearables are reaching and targeting users younger than 40, but they're missing out on a population that would also embrace these tools. Imagine an mHealth wearable endorsed by AARP and the vast user-base that alone bodes for a developer or device maker.

Luckily, my father is a well-read and educated man who gave up smoking when the Surgeon General stated it was unhealthy, began eating fish regularly and boosting his Omega 3 intake well before it became popular and who has always incorporated fitness into his daily life.

The ability to tap the emerging benefits of mHealth tool would be wonderful for him and his peers. Let's hope the industry soon discovers the elderly as it innovates in mHealth.

Wishing you all a wonderful, happy, and healthy Thanksgiving.

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