I was thrilled to again be part of the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit held in Washington, D.C., as both a presenter and moderator on behalf of CDW Healthcare. This year’s Boomer Summit saw a marked shift in both discussion topics and new industry participation. The conference has been heavily focused on policy in the past, but I’ve always felt it would truly shine when we had the added participation of both senior care operators and technologists. Having those leaders involved this year brought technology to the forefront and helped foster meaningful real-life discussion on where we should be headed and how we can work together to get there. Here are some of the key themes that emerged.

Our industry needs to stop playing the victim

As a member of the American Society on Aging (ASA) technology board, I was eager to see what they would discuss during the session they led at the summit. A notable conversation started when one participant raised the complaint that we aren’t part of the overall healthcare conversation, and asked how aging service provider groups could better engage with the broader healthcare system. You’ll see I’ve shared some thoughts on this in the past, namely that we should take the opportunity to better understand each other. But the biggest outcome during the discussion was first brought up by the assistant secretary of the ASA, who said we need to change our attitude and be more proactive. Many agreed. The conversation evolved to acknowledge the need to showcase thought leaders in the industry who are disrupting senior care, and the fact that we have to bridge the gaps between policy, providers and technology leaders. We have to come together, and we have to start owning the conversation and seeking collaboration with the full care continuum.

Home health is an essential part of today’s longevity economy

Both throughout the in-person summit and actively on Twitter, stats were being shared about Boomers’ preference for staying in their homes. Enabling longevity in the home is not only being acknowledged at this point, but acted upon by providers and caregivers. There is the realization that there are never going to be enough communities or skilled facilities to support the tsunami of aging segments. Operators are extending their services to support this growing demand, and technology providers are creating a wealth of tools to support both professional and family caregivers. During one of our workshops on the tech-enabled home for aging America, we focused on how we must connect the dots between technology trends and leveraging the best of that technology for the aging adult. Dr. David Rhew of Samsung shared a real-life example of how this can come to life to transform the experience of aging in a tech-enabled, connected home.

Aging optimistically: Technology development needs to change to “adaptable to all”

Innovation and technology go hand in hand in supporting the vision and strategy underlying the business solutions senior care providers employ to engage current and new customers (Boomers and beyond) and to establish new business models. AARP has been especially active in emphasizing that technology needs to be designed for everyone to use, and both leaders from AARP and the Pew Research Center shared what this approach means during our “State of Innovation” panel.

There is often a stigma around the word “senior.” Boomers don’t refer to themselves as seniors, and they don’t want to feel like they are using technology developed solely for seniors. As Joann Jenkins of AARP said, “If people believe a product is made for old people, neither the young nor the old use it.” For developers of technology, it makes sense to design technology that meets everyone’s needs. At the end of the day, technology is made to support care, not to be a barrier, and the best approach is to offer a product that is flexible enough to be customized for any user — Boomer or otherwise — and thus “adaptable to all,” creating the best user experience possible.

Two partners of ours, Breezie and SingFit, were used as case examples. Breezie eliminates all the complexities of a touchscreen tablet, simplifying the experience for seniors with an interface that’s customizable. SingFit turns the singing experience on its head, creating a new approach to music therapy. You can read more about our music panel discussion and how SingFit is turning music into medicine here.

Millennials and Boomers have more in common than you think

How can we get Millennials more concerned about Baby Boomers and more involved in senior care? Where are there gaps in how operators are approaching staffing? John Zogby led a fascinating keynote that talked about how both Baby Boomers and Millennials have grown up experiencing changes that, while they may seem very different at first, have created similar worldviews based upon how history and technology have impacted them. His message was, “Better understand each of these generations, and you will be better able to address their needs in a meaningful way.” For staffing, the implication I see is there are opportunities for us to foster this natural connection between Boomers and Millennials and welcome Millennials and their new ideas into our industry.

We can do more together than we can apart

Overall, this year’s conference was a great opportunity to have a conversation about how we can better support our seniors and create a future we can be proud of. This all starts with us talking across every segment of the industry, embracing new ideas from all ages and all roles, and working together. I can’t wait to continue that discussion.

What do you think is the most important topic facing Baby Boomers and senior care providers today? If you attended the Boomer Summit, what were your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you! Tweet us @CDW_Healthcare and @GinnaBaik or visit our Senior Care Technology group on LinkedIn to share your perspective.

Interested in more from the Boomer Summit? Check out the top tweets from the day to see a recap of the discussion!

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