By Mark Olshaker | Care of the National Aging In Place Council
In the field of health technology, we’ve come a long way from the days of the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” emergency response devices. They’re still around, and highly useful for elderly or impaired seniors, but now they’re mobile and much more sophisticated.
Laurie M. Orlov, a technology expert, writer, speaker and elder care advocate, is the founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch, which provides thought leadership, analysis and guidance about technologies and services that enable boomers and seniors to remain longer in their home of choice. She divides aging in place technologies into four categories:
Health and Wellness, Communication Engagement, Security and Safety, and Learning and
“Each of these is useful in itself,” she comments, “but together, they complete a puzzle of maintaining connections, safety, health, and a more fulfilling and interactive life as we age.”
Much of this technology is similar to what people of all ages now consider the norm. Communications includes email, smart phones, tablets and video games. Safety and Security includes home monitoring, webcams, and fall detection. Learning encompasses legacy education, financial instruction and volunteer work. And Health and Wellness covers caregiving, telehealth, medication and disease management, and fitness devices, diet trackers, etc.
Telemedicine will come into its own when physicians see the benefits, such as remote consultation with specialists for their patients’ conditions, and if insurance companies conclude that the technology actually saves them money in doctor visits and keeping their members healthy. “Most likely it will be Medicare that sets the pace,” says Orlov. “Medicare drives all behavior in healthcare and everyone else copies.”
The key issue, as science fiction author William Gibson suggests, is that technology is not evenly distributed. While 61 percent of seniors 65 and older have online connections, Orlov sees a dramatic demarcation line for all technologies, defined by wealth and education. “Quite simply, at the right income and education levels, there is more adoption of technology,” she states. “The federal government really wants everything evenly distributed, but the digital divide will continue to be economic.”
Most older Americans do want the advantages of smart phones, tablets and the Internet, and in the 60 to 75 year-old range, they can handle most of it. For those above that age, it becomes more difficult. “The biggest barrier is the pace of change,” Orlov notes. “It is difficult for seniors to cope with the need for constant retraining.”
She lays out four conditions that must be satisfied for technology to serve seniors as they age:
1. Technologies must be well supported and intuitive.
2. Device vendors must be capable of integration and extension; that is, able to communicate with each other with a common standard.
3. Costs to consumers must be affordable.
4. Upgrades must be more seamless than today.
One of the most important aspects of technology for seniors, Orlov believes, will be improvement of the user interface with reliable speech recognition. If seniors can simply talk to their devices, wider adoption is much more likely and aging in place platforms will be on the path to reaching their full potential.
Marc has 36 years in financial services and 6 years in teaching.
Visit Us on Google