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It’s Not Science Fiction Any More

Will technology really help provide care solutions for the seniors housing and care sector? According to the 2018 NIC Fall Conference lunch speaker, new technology will have a huge impact on care—and sooner than you may think. Global tech entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa is well-known for his ability to predict and describe revolutionary technological advances long before they transform our lives. His book, The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future, details emerging innovations and makes a strong case for embracing them. We talked to him about his upcoming presentation and how seniors housing and care stakeholders may benefit from his insights. What we can expect is this—the next few years will bring profound changes to the seniors housing and care sector, as a host of breakthrough products and services simultaneously enter the market.

NIC: What’s your message for the seniors housing and care industry?

Wadhwa: Within five years, our smart phones will have the same computing power as our brains. Then they’ll continue getting smarter. Because of advances in computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and sensors, the robots we imagined from pop culture and Sci-Fi are now becoming a reality. The sensors in our rooms, working with AI and the devices we carry in our pockets, will deliver personalized healthcare. We’ll literally have AI talking to us, telling us how we should live healthier lives. The advances we might have imagined growing up are now becoming a reality. It’s not science fiction any more.

NIC: Do you have a key takeaway for this audience?

Wadhwa: The strongest use of this technology is for serving and caring for the elderly. To the extent that operators and investors learn about these technologies, they can provide better care to the elderly, and can enhance the services they offer, all while improving operational efficiencies. They can make lives better.

Also, the largest growth market in the next five to ten years will be caring for the elderly.

NIC: Will this technology address major issues, such as staffing shortages, wage growth, and adapting to the value-based payment system?

Wadhwa: With intelligent devices such as Alexa actively monitoring and assisting individuals, you need less human labor. For example, imagine within every property, a diagnostics device that can perform many of the same tests as a hospital. It then connects directly to a doctor on a smart phone, providing all the necessary information for prescribing medications and delivering instant advice. This type of technology, which is already available in other countries, will reduce costs, improve efficiencies, and take care of the human element, improving outcomes.

NIC: Will you have specific examples?

Wadhwa: I will walk my audience through a variety of technologies—from AI and robotics to sensors, digital medicine, even self-driving cars. I’m going to give a timeline for what this means to them and when they can expect to see these in the market. Forget Uber. The biggest opportunity for self-driving cars will be transportation for the elderly—they will be the biggest beneficiaries of that technology, because they need it the most.

NIC: What piqued your interest in this topic?

Wadhwa: We’re all getting older. I’ve had many debates about what we’re going to do about caring for the elderly—particularly when they’re the majority of the population. There won’t be enough young people to care for them, therefore you will need technology.

NIC: How will new technology address labor issues?

Wadhwa: We’ve seen nothing yet. In the next five to ten years, we’ll see things get harder. Current labor issues are a small taste of what’s coming. Investors need to double their investments and not back off. In the long term, this sector is where the money will be made.

NIC: What’s the most significant innovation coming?

Wadhwa: If there was just one, this would be a very simple talk. The advances in computing are driving a host of technological breakthroughs, at an exponential pace, all at the same time.

NIC: If you had to pick one new technology, to have the most impact on the seniors housing and care industry, which would you select?

Wadhwa: For the elderly, I’d pick AI/robotics. These will be basically the same technology—devices that can do the work of a human being. They’ll have a huge impact on this industry. This category will include cars, drones, and a host of other intelligent devices.

NIC: What should investors, developers, owners, and operators do to prepare for these changes?

Wadhwa: They have to learn about these emerging technologies. Look at the demographics and the market opportunity. They need to think about how they can provide better services and efficiencies with what’s coming.

Are there resources you would point these stakeholders to?

Wadhwa: Well, here’s where my book, The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future, comes in. For this sector, it’s a must-read. It walks them through all of these things and tells them what it means for their lives.

NIC: How will all this technology change the experience of a senior resident, say in an assisted living facility?

Wadhwa: Seniors will live healthier, more engaged lives. Virtual reality advances will take them into new experiences, and new parts of the world. Life-like experiences will enable seniors to virtually travel. This technology is currently flimsy—it’s just for techies right now, but in five years, it will be like accessing a new reality. Five years is not that far away. In so many ways, the lives of seniors will improve.

How do you think your message will resonate with this audience?

Wadhwa: By the time I’m done, their heads will be spinning. They’ll be blown away and should feel very excited—and a little bit scared.


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