Hitting Your Head Against the Wall

by Louis on June 20, 2012

My parents had that phrase in our household lexicon. Hitting Your Head Against the Wall means doing stuff that will not have the desired results. It means doing the thing when you should have a darned good idea it will not work. It is mostly about influencing other people to do things you think are right. It is about parents and kids. It can also be about business leaders and advocates.

Is he nuts? What is he writing about now? Tenenbaum has…”popped his cork, flipped his wig, blown his stack and dropped his stopper.”* I think many businesses trying to serve aging in place are hitting their heads against the wall.

Yes the scale and longevity demographics are unprecedented. Yes the health needs are outside the mainstream of health delivery. Yes the numbers of people and their chronic conditions have never been seen before. Yes, the need for caregivers is going to be overwhelming.

Many problems are documented. People fall with disastrous results for themselves, their families and medical costs. People become isolated in their homes. Memories fail slowly and in fits and starts. People lose their ability to drive so they can no longer access services from their suburban homes.

That does not mean a service or product that responds directly to one of those problems will find a market. Driverless cars are cool technology but many older folks need help getting to the door and getting their packages inside. Introducing new tech and other products, new ‘concierge’ service twists and info websites about caregiving aimed at the adult children of those who are older are not smart market plays. They are uneducated stabs at a demographic about which the sellers have not done their homework.

Entrepreneurs want to toss things into the market hoping they will work….they think that is how facebook happened. They think an industry/marketplace/infrastructure will emerge “organically” as products hit the market and needs find solutions.

My view is that little really happens organically. It comes from community advocacy (consumer interest or need) along with subsidy, incentives and regulations.  Think how the railroads were given right of ways. Look at high tech coming from the space race and the internet coming from DARPA. Where would facebook have been without the internet. How could I write this blog without defense department investment?

After years of grass roots advocacy and a lot of not for profit lobbying solar/green emerged from Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”. His previous job gave him excellent national/international exposure. The consumer interest he generated built on hard fought regulations requiring power companies to buy excess from distributed generators (turning your electric meter backwards) AND requirements that power companies glean a percentage from renewables. Those regulations were enhanced by federal and local subsidies to manufacturers as well as heavy and significant state and local tax breaks to homeowners and business purchasers.

Sorry folks. Things don’t just happen. We need to do our homework and we need to push the infrastructure. Some points that make the Aging in Place Institute the right vehicle. (1) the desired result, Aging in Place 2.0, requires significant collaboration across sectors so working together is a step in the right direction. (2) members will learn the interests and connect with folks from other sectors to build their collaborative “go to market” strategies. (3) as health care looks to Home and Community Based Services to reduce hospitalizations and re-admissions and other cost savings, regulations will come into play. HCBS providers should be ready to speak for their interests.  (4) Building Aging in Place infrastructure is a big complex job. Pooling resources makes sense. It is too big/expensive to work alone. We can accomplish more and do it faster and more effectively and efficiently working together. In fact, that is the only way it will happen.

Please contact me to give your support.

*from one of my FAVORITE books. The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater

 

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