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Study says Baby Boomers aren’t taking steps to live independently

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Baby Boomers say they want to live independently as they age, but a new study suggests they aren’t preparing their homes to do so.

Philips and the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business released a study that shows a widening technology innovation gap for aging Boomers.

The study reveals that 96 percent of respondents say it’s important to be as independent as possible as they get older, but only 21 percent of them plan to incorporate new so-called “smart home” technology solutions, despite their already widespread use of certain technologies such as computer and wi-fi.

Philips, a diversified international technology company, has an online resource called Creating Connected Communities for Aging Well that includes the study, entitled “Older, but not always wiser”.

“The projected growth of the aging population constitutes a real need to focus on preparing for the future today,” said Brent Shafer, CEO of Philips North America. “Now is the time that we need to urgently and collectively shift focus to reduce the barriers and increase education on new innovations in technology that bring peace of mind, safety, and convenience to aging seniors.”

Respondents said the three most important factors for communities are high-speed internet access (87 percent), nearby grocery stores (83 percent), and access to hospitals and medical centers (77 percent).

They said the most important factors for home design features are a low-maintenance exterior (58 percent), master bedrooms and baths on the first floor (54 percent), and effective lighting throughout the house (54 percent).

And while Baby Boomers are accustomed to using technology for refilling prescriptions and scheduling doctor visits and going online to review their government services such as Social Security, there’s a reluctance to employ technology in and around the homes they intend to stay in.

The study shows nearly 80 percent of respondents are not thinking about or are not sure they’ll make upgrades to their homes.

A good part of the reluctance, according to the researchers, is concern about cost. Most think it’ll just be too expensive. Researchers say builders and others associated with smart-home technologies need to stress the long-term value of the upgrades as well as potential long-term savings, benefits that extend through generations.

“The long-term, intergenerational benefits to universal design and early technology adoption extend beyond the aging population. For example, structural and technological updates can help injured individuals of all ages move with ease,” said Bill Novelli, GSEI founder and Georgetown McDonough professor.

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