The White House Report on the Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of people in the United States aged 65 or older will grow to 95 million by the year 2060 and comprise nearly a quarter of the population.

The combination of the projected growth of this segment and the desire of older Americans to live independently in their homes and communities makes it critical that the Federal Government proactively develop strategies, tools, and recommendations to enable them to live healthy, independent lives.

It's the reason a Task Force was established under the National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology to examine the potential of technology to maximize the independence of aging Americans. Their focus: 

  • Key Activities of Independent living
  • Cognition Monitoring
  • Communication & Social Connectivity
  • Personal Mobility
  • Transportation
  • And more

This report identifies a range of emerging technologies that have significant potential to assist older adults with successfully aging in place, each categorized by their role in supporting a set of primary capabilities.

It identifies a number of focus areas that could support each capability and provides recommendations for research and development (R&D) that are required to develop key technology solutions over the coming decade.

Maintain Social Connections

The one factor near and dear to my heart, social connectivity, lacks the most attention and energy from startups, developers, and institutions. Social isolation and loneliness among older adults are linked to depressive symptoms, poor cognitive functioning, disrupted sleep, lack of physical activity, and impaired mental health—all of which have implications for increased mortality.

It's the one topic members of the Elder Orphan Facebook Group discusses most frequently.

Research by the committee says effectiveness of interventions, including online social networks, should be created to reduce social isolation and loneliness. And to develop technological solutions to minimize the risk of predatory social media campaigns.

Family Caregiver Needs

A 2016 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine estimates that there are at least 17.7 million individuals caring for someone aged 65 and older with an impairment. By one estimate, the value of such care in 2013 totaled $470 billion.

By 2035 there will be 78 million individuals older than 65 (outnumbering those under 18 for the first time), the number of family caregivers and the demands on this group will only increase.

What's needed

Suggested methods by which caregivers can employ technology to help in their roles as caregivers include:

  • Education: Consulting internet resources to obtain information on care practices and seek social support.
  • Burden alleviation: Participating in technology-based interventions to reduce the emotional and physical burden from caregiving.
  • Remote caregiving: Monitoring care recipients remotely via videoconferencing and sensing technologies.

There is a lot more that the Task Force plans to address. The report published in March, 2019 and I look forward to hearing more as the research and academic studies unfold. In the meantime, watch my Live as I discussed the report findings. 

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