White House Report Identifies Emerging Technologies to Enhance Quality of Life for Seniors
Recently, the White House released a new report, Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population, identifying innovations that have the potential to improve quality of life for all Americans, particularly those who live with physical or cognitive burdens due to aging or disability. Importantly, the report also identifies the research and development needed to bring these innovations to fruition.
Drafted by experts convened from across the Federal Government by the National Science and Technology Council, the report highlights six key ways technology has the potential to help Americans live longer, healthier, and more independent lives. These include:
Key Activities of Daily Living.
Technology could help older Americans perform many of the activities that comprise independent living, such as eating well, maintaining good hygiene, and managing medications. The report recommends key R&D to advance smart home technology and innovations that promote faster healing and safer, more accurate medication delivery.
Cognitive changes are common during aging and can eventually affect ones ability to live independently and safely. Further R&D holds the promise of advancing technology to help older adults monitor changes in their cognition, provide mental training to reduce the impact of these changes, and create systems that help individuals and families maintain financial security.
Communication and Social Connectivity.
Older adults may face communication challenges as a result of hearing loss, social isolation, and loneliness, especially in economically distressed and rural areas. Technology has the potential to improve hearing abilities, and strengthen connections to family, loved ones, and communities.
To live independently, older Americans must be able to move around their homes and throughout the larger community with comfort and ease. Technology could help older adults stay mobile and safely continue to perform key activities necessary for day-to-day life.
Access to Transportation.
True independence requires mobility outside of ones home and immediate neighborhood. Transportation needs and limitations vary depending on how a persons physical and cognitive abilities change with age. For example, some older adults may be able to drive but require vehicle modification and/or advanced technologies to assist them. New technology could also help older adults more safely and easily use public transportation. Additional R&D into assistive systems that help keep drivers safe and technologies that support easy access to public transportation will allow older Americans to remain connected to social, health, and business facilities.
Access to Healthcare.
Routine access to healthcare plays a critical role in helping older adults stay active and independent as they age. The report highlights the need for enhanced R&D into technology that could help align and coordinate care, and to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare services.
The integration of home technologies such as sensors, apps, and even robots represents an opportunity to support independent living among the older population. In addition, these home technologies can impact home care, not only by making it more efficient in terms of costs and timing of health-related treatment, but also by offering solutions that encourage independent living and enhanced quality of life for aging adults.
In addition to the six primary areas listed above, the report recommends cross-cutting themes that are critical to the widespread adoption of new technologies among older Americans, including intuitive, user-friendly designs as well as addressing privacy and security considerations.
Getting these cutting-edge innovations into homes and communities will require R&D across a wide range of disciplines, spanning the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. But the potential is profound; Resilient, cost-effective materials could keep surfaces free of bacteria, innovative sensor and actuator systems could keep people comfortable during long periods in bed, new household robots could assist with food preparation, and much more. The Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population report not only identifies areas of technology that can significantly impact Americans quality of life as they age, but also recommends areas of R&D where public and private sector efforts can help bring those innovations to life.