The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report in March with several recommendations for the federal government concerning telehealth and electronic health record (EHR) policies, among other items, geared toward enabling aging Americans to live more independent lives.
Co-Chairs of PCAST, John P. Holdren and Eric S. Lander, noted in the report that as the average age of Americans increases, having an active and productive life continues to be important. But there are challenges.
“The older adult population is diverse, made up of individuals with different economic circumstances, living situations, geographic locations, and language backgrounds, but predictable changes occur as people age,” the co-chairs wrote.
While over half of older Americans had reported using the Internet in 2013, that leaves a large number of those who did not, whether for lack of interest, a perceived level of difficulty, or a lack of access. For this reason, the PCAST report calls on the federal government to expand access to affordable broadband in the homes of seniors, among many other policy recommendations.
What Technology Can Do for the Active Aging Demographic
“Technology has played an important role in increasing life expectancy,” the PCAST authors wrote, “but it also has an important role to play in increasing the quality of life, by maximizing Americans’ ability to function in their later years.”
For example, the report mentions smartphone apps that can monitor fine motor control, which may be useful in cases of Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. Remote monitoring technology can be key in helping older Americans with cognitive diseases to age in place with the help of caregivers. Predictive analytics may help protect older Americans from fraud and scams as well. Telehealth services enable providers to connect with rural and hard-to-reach patients. There are myriad ways technology can be applied to improve the lives of older Americans as well as their relationships with providers, payers and pharmacists.
Enabling Seniors to Access and Use Technology
Some telling statistics from the report highlight the need to not only develop technology that Baby Boomers can and will use, but also to train them on how to use them:
- Just 18 percent of older adults feel comfortable learning to use new devices such as smartphones or tablets
- 75 percent need someone to help them learn
- More than half need help taking advantage of social network tools
The goal of the report and its recommendations is simple:
“Older adults can bring the experiences and knowledge of their lifetimes to be vital, contributing, and productive members of society. Implementing these recommendations will help that happen, by ensuring that Americans now and in the future remain independent and connected as they age.”