Guest Column | January 2, 2017

How Technology Is Improving The Later Stages Of Life

Engaging With Patient Advocates To Improve Clinical Trials

By Adinah East, VP Quality Improvement, Caring People Inc.

Technology is always a hot topic, especially among teens and younger adults. However, the elderly are increasingly turning to technology to enhance their lives. Recent studies demonstrate technology for seniors can be a low-cost way to “offset significant challenges to well-being encountered in the latest state of life.” While many may scoff at the idea of the elderly population utilizing modern technological advances, a study conducted by the Pew Research Center finds 58 percent of Americans over age 65 use the internet. What many fail to consider is that the new breed of retirees may have just finished a 30-year career working with computers and other evolving forms of technology.

This group of seniors has already recognized the benefits of technology and, more importantly, are not intimidated by it. In fact, Stanford University study found the “oldest old” age demographic, aged 80 or older, are more likely to turn to technology to maintain health and stay connected with family and friends. Considering the mobility and user-friendliness of modern technological devices, we shouldn’t be surprised that seniors’ interest goes beyond typical home healthcare technology. Following are some of the ways technology is improving life for seniors.

Education

Senior adults are increasingly turning to the endless resources of the internet to obtain information on any and all subjects of personal interest. With the lightweight portability and simple interface of tablets and other mobile devices, seniors can search and discover vast amounts of health information, profiles of medical specialists, drug and medication instructions, news, weather, and more. And, all on an easily-viewed screen with the option of enlarging text for better reading.

Enhanced Communication

Video call apps such as Skype or Facetime are becoming increasingly popular with elderly adults who have grandchildren and other family who live far away. The Pew Research report referenced above found more than 78 percent of Americans over 65 have cell phones, although only 30 percent use smartphones. This data suggests staying in touch with loved ones and easy communication with the surrounding world is a major concern for seniors.

Monitoring Health Condition

Home healthcare technology is where many believe seniors are most interested, and advancements in this segment of technology are indeed developing rapidly. In-home physiological monitoring is being utilized more to closely watch a senior’s heart rate, blood pressure, and more, especially after a recent hospitalization. But consider how smart watches and fitness trackers can provide ongoing health monitoring and even engage with the user to promote better health and fitness. Medication reminders and monitors can signal when meds are due or need refilled. In addition, newer GPS devices enable seniors to be remotely monitored by loved ones, and can even send a signal if the elderly loved one becomes lost or moved outside a predetermined zone.

Technology for seniors cannot replace time spent face-to-face with family and friends, or getting the exercise they need to maintain wellness. But technological advances can supplement these activities, especially for those whose opportunities to engage in these desired pursuits are limited. As technology becomes more mobile, convenient, and user-friendly, more seniors in every age demographic will become better informed, better connected, and more engaged with healthier living.

About The Author
While completing undergraduate work Adinah worked with her grandmother, founder of Caring People, to learn about the homecare industry. Upon completion of her Masters of Public Administration, Adinah returned to the healthcare industry to positively impact the lives of the elderly and their caregivers. Adinah now oversees the quality improvement initiatives at Caring People.