World Prepares for Aging “Megatrend,” Experiments with Home Care Technology

Aging demographics in the U.S. are indicative of a “megatrend” seen throughout the world, reports CNBC, and governments across the globe are starting to look for ways to provide efficient and cost-effective long-term care for seniors.

Long-term care encompasses skilled nursing, assisted living, and home health care, the article notes, but regardless of setting, it’s generally not covered by health insurance—leaving many people financially unprepared. However, using technology to improve the quality of in-home care is a possible—and evolving—solution. 

CNBC reports:

[S]ome countries—notably Ireland, Scotland, the U.K., and Japan—are aggressively researching technology-driven solutions.

Orlov said some countries are experimenting with what is called “tele-healthcare”—physicians’ visits conducted via Skype or other Web-based technology. They are also using home monitoring technology—for example, a camera installed near a refrigerator to make sure the homeowner is eating. Japan is even experimenting with using robots to pick up and move bed-bound nursing home patients because there aren’t enough young workers there to perform nursing and long-term care jobs.

These ideas are now being researched or piloted in the U.S., Orlov said. But she added that there isn’t as much attention paid to cutting-edge elderly care ideas in the U.S. because “the problem for us as a society is out in the future.” Meanwhile, in countries where governments contribute to the cost of long-term care, there is a clear incentive to accelerate innovation—which is why governments pay for long-term care research.

In the U.S., most long-term care isn’t covered by private health insurance or Medicare. If these policies cover nursing home care or home care at all, it is only for a short-term or limited basis. For instance, the maximum length of stay Medicare covers in a skilled nursing facility is 100 days.

Jeff Salter, CEO of Caring Senior Service, said one solution might be to allow more immigration. He said he has more clients than caregivers to help them now — and the situation is bound to become more acute in coming years.

But he also said the baby boom generation may have surprises in store, even as it ages. “Our baby boom generation has shaped every step of the way, from social issues to women’s rights to ongoing issues today,” Salter said. “The unknown is how much they’ll stand up and say ‘we demand something different.’ They can demand robots. They can demand a different kind of housing. As they’ve done so before, they may rise up again.”

By 2050, the “gray tsunami” is expected to hit the nation, when 20% of the U.S. population will be 65 or older, says CNBC citing a Deloitte Center for Health Solutions study. Currently, 9 million Americans are receiving long-term care services from friends and family at an annual estimated cost of nearly $200 billion.

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Written by Alyssa Gerace

Alyssa Gerace

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