How the Internet of Things & On-Demand Services Will Change Housing in Retirement
The next wave of retirees will be more tech-savvy than ever.
Joseph F. Coughlin is director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab (http://agelab.mit.edu). His research explores how demographic change, technology and consumer behavior drive innovations in business and society. Coughlin teaches in MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the Sloan School's Advanced Management Program. He is author of the new book The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World's Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market (Public Affairs, 2017).
Nearly ubiquitous connectivity, the Internet of Things, and related services have produced new conveniences radically transforming transportation, food delivery, health monitoring, banking, shopping, and more. As these services become the new normal, will they transform what we believe to be living well in older age?
High-tech "smart"’ services and the on-demand economy are considered the symbols of 20- and 30-something year old Millennials. Millennials may be the first generation to view Internet-enabled convenience not just as a desired premium value, but also as an expectation for every experience. Convenience on-demand and in their hands has earned them another moniker — Gen C for Generation Convenience. However, life by app is fast becoming ageless. Only this week AARP subsidiary Life Reimagined struck a collaboration with Uber to encourage the over 40 set to consider Uber as an employment option. Airbnb, the online community and service that helps millions find accommodations in 190 countries, reports that about 1 million of its guests and hosts are over age 60.
The next wave of retirees will be more tech-savvy and more demanding than previous generations of older adults. As the Baby Boomers and Gen X (who began turning 50 this year) approach retirement, their digital midlife will lead them to assess their retirement options with the expectation that wherever they live in older age, it must be smart, connected and on-demand. Along with their Millennial children and grandchildren, many next gen retirees are redrawing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to include the new necessities of Wi-Fi, smart technology, and on-demand sharing economy services alongside the basic human needs of food, shelter, and security.
How will these new expectations affect lifestyle and housing preferences in retirement?
Perhaps major home remodeling will include a new wave of "smart home makeovers." People most often do big-ticket home projects in their late 40s and 50s. Beyond updating tired kitchens and bathrooms in homes bought decades ago, Baby Boomer and Gen X homeowners may seek to integrate new technologies that connect them to on-demand services making their lives more convenient today, but enabling home care services tomorrow — e.g., food delivery, telemedicine, safety monitoring.
Many retirees may downsize — moving from larger suburban homes to smaller more urbanized living in retirement. Will downsizing Boomers and Gen Xers assess their community choices through a digital lens? In a recent article on The Atlantic, I imagine what a future gerontopian age-ready community might look like. I suggest that a community’s accessibility is about more than just physical access; it includes a digital dimension as well. Older Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are likely to seek housing and communities that are easy to navigate by foot, scooter, and wheelchair, but also offer ubiquitous access to services enabled by the evolving Internet of Things and the on-demand economy.
Just imagine realtors that were once required to be fluent in discussing the quality of local schools or health care to prospective young homebuyers now having to demonstrate that a community is highly desirable because it is "smart" due to its high concentration of home technology providers and sharing-economy services. A sales pitch might sound something like this — “Yes, we have excellent health care here, but there are also a full range of telemedicine and home health providers from some of the nation’s finest hospitals ... in fact, the housing development you are considering offers Mayo, Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins home telehealth services.” A conversation around a community’s location and transportation might sound like: “We do have an extensive public transportation system here, but this complex is also served by Uber, Lyft, and SilverRide. ZipCar also has several hybrid stations nearby so you have no need to buy a unit with a garage. Oh, we also like to encourage walking so there is also a convenient drone-drop delivery area an easy walk from this condominium unit.”
Senior housing will have to step up to meet the new technology demands of tomorrow’s older adults. While many senior housing firms are beginning to integrate technology to improve their operations and the well-being of their residents, future buyers and family caregivers will expect technologies that can be used directly by residents. Today’s computer cafes that simply allow Internet surfing will not meet the expectations of retirees who believe that there is (or will be) an app for nearly everything.
New technology is most often discussed in terms of functionality — what "it" does. Technology also changes our thinking and perceptions of what to expect. As we are surrounded by smart everything, everywhere, throughout our youth and midlife, all of us — regardless of our generation — will expect old age to be something new.
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- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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