That’s why so many adult children of aging parents would like senior-friendly Internet setup packages offering, for example, one-touch access to e-mail and large-type screen displays. Would they pay a premium for such a service setup? Given longer life spans and the demographic tilt toward the elderly, that’s a multibillion-dollar question.
No doubt the greatest opportunities in innovation intervention will be driven by biomedical breakthroughs. Social taboos that once made it impolite to tell friends or family members that they drank or smoked or ate too much seem to have collapsed. It’s not difficult to imagine gift certificates for elective surgery such as liposuctions or post-pregnancy tummy tucks for moms who feel depressed that they’ve “let themselves go” after the births of their children.
Similarly, the expanding array of antidepressants, antianxiety drugs, and other cognitive enhancers guarantees a fundamental rethinking of how innovative therapies are marketed. Alzheimer’s medications are already targeted to caregivers. Indeed, how can people who increasingly suffer from short-term memory loss be expected to remember to take their medicine? But nowadays it’s also common for schoolteachers to recommend that parents consider medication for their hyperactive or potentially ADD-afflicted children – for their own good, of course.
While debates about the ethics and efficacy of medicalizing an increasing number of once normal behaviors will no doubt intensify, the undeniable reality is that individuals – whether children, adults, or seniors – live in contexts that involve people who ostensibly care about them. These communities of caregivers are also marketplaces. And these marketplaces need their own support, education, and training infrastructures.
Innovators who invest as if these caregivers were simply salespeople for their innovative products and services are both fools and lousy businesspeople. Segmenting the innovation-intervention marketplace may prove even more economically important than segmenting the users of those innovations. If you’re GlaxoSmithKline and you’re touting a drug like Paxil as a remedy for anxiety among overextended professionals, for example, you’ll probably want to tailor one message to employees’ spouses and a very different one to a company’s human-resources executives.
Yes, there’s a core of presumptuousness in this pushy, do-goodery persuasion. But that’s part of its charm and effectiveness. The innovations need to be robust and reliable enough to justify and support the intervention. They must be designed, packaged, and promoted with interventions in mind. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but if it’s your mom who needs the invention, you’ll be grateful for some innovative help in intervening.