The New Era of Connected Aging

I’m happy to promote a new report by the Center for Technology and Aging and include information from its Executive Overview. This organization primarily serves the healthcare industry with a mission similar to ours, described as, “To improve the independence of older adults dealing with chronic health care issues by promoting the adoption and diffusion of beneficial technologies.”
Click to view "The New Era of Connected Aging," a report by the Center for Technology and Aging

A Framework for Understanding Technologies
that Support Older Adults in Aging in Place

The United States is a rapidly aging nation. (Aging is actually a global problem. -editor) A demographic change is quickly outstripping the capacity of family caregivers, providers, and programs and services that serve the aging population. To address the impending increase in the demand for health care and long-term care, new programs must be created that reinforce the ability of older adults to thrive in their homes and communities, and support them in aging independently.

We are at the dawning of “connected aging” in which the growing array of Internet-based technologies and mobile devices increasingly will support older adults in aging in place. Emerging technologies will enable both older adults and their caregivers to address a comprehensive range of medical, health, social, and functional needs. In addition, technology-based solutions that connect older adults to friends, family, and the community are becoming more viable; older adults and their caregivers are growing increasingly tech savvy; technology usability is improving; and price points are descending. As indicated in Figures 1 and 2 older adults’ use of technology, whether it be social networking, text messaging, use of the internet, or use of mobile phones/tablets, is growing at an ever increasing rate.

At the same time, technology is rapidly evolving. For example, early technologies such as remote patient monitoring have proven successful in supporting care coordination and management for older adults with complex conditions and needs, leading to improved health and well-being and reduced health care utilization. Existing technologies are now moving off of purpose-built devices and on to off-the-shelf cell phones, smart phones, tablets, and PCs. Meanwhile, a wide range of new consumer-oriented technologies is coming into use. These include activity trackers paired with mobile apps for virtual health coaching, web sites that help older adults and caregivers get access to critical resources such as non-medical home care, and provider platforms that can support increasingly mobile professional homecare workers, to name just a few.

This issue brief is intended to help decision makers in the health care, aging-services, and policy communities understand the emerging range of technologies that can empower older adults to remain independent in the community, while increasing the capacity of formal and informal caregivers. To assist in better understanding the landscape, the issue brief describes a framework that organizes connected aging technologies into four main categories based on its primary location of use: body, home environment, community, and caregiving. It also identifies key emerging technologies. Finally, it provides a discussion of how the new era of connected aging can unfold, including some key barriers and how those might be overcome.

New Era of Connected Aging - Figures 1 & 2


 

The report describes different product categories with examples for each and provides an understandable framework for health professionals that may also help consumers. It then looks a bit into the future, using other market research from Pew Internet, and concludes that senior adoption of tech products will likely accelerate for several reasons, including:

  • Rapidly falling prices;
  • Rapidly improving user interfaces, interoperability and general ease of use;
  • The growing number of tech savvy seniors;
  • An increasing need for senior care but with fewer practioners available;
  • And an increasing number of providers and insurers willing to recommend and fund tech products.

Market awareness will also play a strong role in the adoption rate of tech products that help seniors stay safe, healthy and independent at home, and that’s where Modern Health Talk come in.