Technology aimed at improving access to health care, cognition and personal mobility will be key to older Americans’ ability to age in place and the federal government’s capacity to care for them, a new White House report argues.
Tech dedicated to assisting with activities of daily living, transportation, and communication and social connectivity will also play an increasingly important role, according to the report, released earlier this month by the White House Task Force on Research and Development for Technology to Support Aging Adults.
“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 report reads. “The combination of the projected growth of this segment of the population and the desire of many 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.”
While the report itself is new, several home health and home care providers have already made serious tech pushes into transportation, social connectivity and the numerous other categories it highlights.
Home Instead Inc. — the international franchise company behind the Home Instead Senior Care Network — recently invested in senior-friendly tablet developer GrandPad, for example.
Additionally, several home care agencies have launched partnerships with ride-hailing giants Uber and Lyft to help clients get around.
Companies operating on the fringes of home-based care have likewise partaken in the push, including tech powerhouse Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and “Grandkids on-demand startup” Papa. Apple’s redesigned and re-engineered Apple Watch boasts a fall-detection feature that can identify when hard falls occur, while Papa helps connect older adults with nearby college students to reduce social isolation and loneliness.
The primary purpose of the 40-page White House report was to broadly map out R&D direction both public and private sector aging services stakeholders.
Among its top takeaways, the report outlined the need for stakeholders to develop technology to assist with the assessment and ongoing observation of cognitive health.
Technology to help older adults recover from physical injuries in their own homes — such as virtual reality devices to help individuals simulate walking following a stroke — also needs to be a priority.
“Current rehabilitation programs require older adults to go to clinical facilities, which limits who can attend and for how much time they will receive therapy,” the report reads. “To minimize cost, maximize access and maximize the amount of time that can be spent pursuing rehabilitation activities, systems enabling in-home therapy are needed.”
When it comes to activities of daily living, some of the biggest tech opportunities are in the areas of hygiene, nutrition and medication. For many home care providers, these are pillar service lines, suggesting they’re well-positioned to become further tech partners and on-the-ground enablers in the future.
Early on, small home modifications may suffice, the report notes.
Over time, however, more interventions may be needed.
While the report didn’t go into significant detail on the role of home care and home health providers, it did mention that the integration of home technologies such as sensors, apps and robots represents an opportunity to impact home care by making it more efficient in terms of costs and timing.
The 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 by increasing opportunities for social engagement and connectivity as well as reducing the impact of any cognitive and physical limitations.