Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

Deb Citrin of Philips Home Healthcare Weaves a Boomer Safety Net
Photograph by Joshua Dalsimer
Photograph by Joshua Dalsimer

Deb Citrin
Senior director, strategy and business development, Philips Home Healthcare
Framingham, Massachusetts

Citrin, 50, is rethinking how to market products for the elderly — by targeting their aging children.

"Baby boomers are still managing their lives and taking care of their children, but they're also taking care of their aging parents. Every 2.3 seconds, somebody over the age of 65 suffers a serious fall. Our Lifeline service with AutoAlert automatically calls for help if a fall is detected. I am a baby boomer, and my mother has the Lifeline pendant. We also have a service that notifies adult children if Mom or Dad hasn't taken their medication. Boomers are willing to spend dollars on aging successfully and managing health. If we help them care for their parents — and help the parents age at home — the boomers will remember our products as they themselves cross the 65-year mark."

-Extended Online Q&A-

Fast Company: From a healthcare perspective, how imperative is preparing for this generation as they approach old age?

DC: We have a care crisis. Worldwide we have 820 million individuals that will cross the 65-year mark by 2015, and the demand for health care is outstripping the supply. The baby boomers are the sandwich generation—they’re dealing with managing their own lives, taking care of their aging parents, and in many cases, still taking care of their children. What’s more, the baby boomer is a very demanding consumer, and they’re going to want to age in place as they juggle these responsibilities. We have to help them do that.

FC: What solutions does Philips offer?

DC: Our Lifeline Service with AutoAlert was a breakthrough for us, enabling seniors to live independently. It’s a pendant necklace that automatically calls for help if a fall is detected. As a baby boomer myself, when my mother is in a situation where she’ll be alone and we agree that she may be at risk, I sleep soundly when she wears the Lifeline pendant. Additionally, one in 10 hospital admissions for those over 65 are related to the fact that individuals are not able to follow their medication schedules properly. This costs our health care system up to $300 billion annually. Our medication dispensing service really tracks the medication schedule. If my mom, for example, doesn’t take her meds when she’s supposed to, I’ll know.

FC: And in helping boomers care for their parents now, you’re hoping they’ll return to your products when they need assistance?

DC: Absolutely. What we know about boomers is, they’re willing to spend dollars on aging successfully and managing their health. They’ve already demonstrated this—50 percent of the time, the payment of our Lifeline and medication dispensing services are coming from the sons and daughters of the user. They’ve got a willingness to pull out their credit cards, and they’re demanding it. They’re demanding more mobile solutions and more information, and we’re evolving to meet the evolving needs of the boomers.

FC: What is Philips doing to offer more mobile solutions?

DC: We looking for ways to enable the family member to know when Mom has interacted with her service. Imagine some form of a mobile app that focuses on the caregiver. There will be a range of capabilities in terms of content—not just notification of whether or not an AutoAlert came in, but something that adds to the connectedness between the parent and child.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

A version of this article appeared in the February 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.