Tech companies shift eye to aging

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SUPPORT SERVICES:

Lively: Based in San Francisco and launchesthis month. Provides wireless sensors that can be placed around the house to monitor a senior’s movements. Family and friends can track the senior’s activity on a private website or mobile application, and receive text message or email alerts about any changes in routine or irregular behavior.

ClubLocal: Based in Dallas. A Web and mobile service to research and book home repair services, including carpet cleaning, plumbing, appliance repair, electrical work, and heating and AC. ClubLocal performs background checks on all technicians, reviews companies for safety and service and pre-negotiates the price for the customer.

ConnectedHealth: Based in Singapore and partners with Oakland, Calif.-based Sovran. Provides wireless health monitoring technology that allows elderly people to receive medical care from home. Doctors can remotely monitor the patient’s health and track chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Tech companies have made hundreds of gadgets and applications for smartphone-addicted teenagers and young professionals. But now, there's technology just for grandparents.

New online and mobile services to help aging adults live alone in their own homes and ease the burden on their caregivers are cropping up. From in-home sensors that monitor when a senior leaves the house or takes medicine, to wireless technology that allows elderly patients to get medical treatment without leaving home, this emerging technology can dramatically improve lives for seniors and entire families, according to tech business leaders and experts on aging.

Until recently, the tech industry has largely ignored the elderly. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and developers tend to be in their 20s, and many have focused only on building smartphone apps and Internet services that make life more convenient for consumers the same age, said Iggy Fanlo, co-founder of San Francisco-based Lively, a wireless technology for aging adults and their caregivers.

But Silicon Valley companies have the chance to create technology with a greater social impact, and probably get just as rich as they would building a video game or shopping app, said David Lindeman, director of the Center for Technology and Aging in Oakland, Calif.

"These areas may not be sexy in terms of the latest and greatest device, but they will have the broadest and longest-lasting social impact," he said.

By 2030, 20 percent of the U.S. will be age 65 and older, and more of them will live longer and more independently in their older years than any time in history. The age to enter a nursing home is inching up, with one study putting the national average at 89.

With older relatives living longer and staying at home, there is often more of a burden on the caregiver to help with medication and doctor's visits, and daily tasks such as cooking, errands and home repairs. Tech companies are beginning to step in and help.