Last week, the White House released a report drafted by the National Science and Technology Council, which identifies emerging technologies that have the potential to enhance the independence, safety, well-being and health of older Americans.
The report highlights six ways technology has the potential to impact the lives of older Americans and solve some of the challenges of aging.
The goal of the report is to encourage the nation to proactively develop strategies and tools to help our rapidly aging population live more healthy and independent lives. The White House has said it is making it a research and development priority to develop those strategies and tools.
So what are the areas that the National Science and Technology Council are looking to focus on?
Activities of Daily Living
Activities of daily living include eating, shopping, meal preparation, bathing, toileting, oral hygiene, dressing and medication management.
Some of our favorite recommendations from the report include:
1. R&D to reduce the transfer of infectious germs and viruses and enable safe and frequent bathing and showering. Technologies discussed include smart showers that can adjust water flow, temperature and soap dispensing. Develop materials that reduce germs on often held items like TV remotes, phones and door handles.
2. R&D into maintaining oral health. Technologies discussed include toothbrushes and flossing designed for low vision, low dexterity and ease of use. Sensors that can regulate pressure, brush angles and surfaces that are brushed i.e. gums versus teeth. Advanced reminders, and alerts of when to perform which rituals of oral care.
3. Develop services that help older adults find the foods their looking for and compare prices. Develop robotic, automated food preparation systems and feeding systems. Explore how seniors are using meal / grocery delivery, online diet coahces, etc...
4. Develop sensors that monitor the real time impact of medications on physical health markers and psychological state. Improve adherence through wireless medication organizers and dispensers. Develop technology to help people with impaired vision identify and take the correct medications. Combine mobile medication adherence data with health data to better manage health outcomes.
Communication and Social Connectivity
The report is focused on three areas including the ability to speak and hear, the ability to understand each other through language and other means and the use of technology to communicate over long distances, like the telephone.
Some really interesting R&D recommendations from the Council include:
- Develop the ability to share audio channels between hearing aids,smartphones, microphones. Advance sound processing technologies, especially in noisy environments. Make over-the-counter hearing aids more accessible.
- Develop more automated (cheaper, convenient) means to test individual hearing levels. Develop hearing loss simulations that allow friends and family to experience the level of hearing loss individuals are going through. Develop standardized protocols that can be used to adjust and tune hearing devices, as opposed to proprietary models that make individuals captive to individual hearing aid manufacturers and limit wider distribution and adoption in other technologies.
- Make hearing aids more affordable and accessible, especially in regions without audiologists
- Create 100% accurate and easy to use translation technology. Expand the ability to convert audio into text and vice versa.
- Find solutions to predatory social media campaigns
The ability to move around one's home and neighborhood is critical to their independence. Here are some fantastic ideas on how technologies we should explore to help older adults do just that:
- Explore automated vehicles or low speed shuttles for use within neighborhoods.
- Develop robotic technology that helps seniors achieve tasks in and outside the home
- Improve control and comfort of new wearability technologies like exoskeletons
- Examine use of virtual reality, gaming systems and other technologies to improve in home rehabilitation to improve things like gait and maintain or improve physical fitness
- Improve reliability of devices and sensors that monitor well-being, movement and falls
- Develop better techniques to assess fall risk and to practice fall prevention exercises within homes.
While there was certainly more to the Emerging Technologies to Support Aging report than what we curated above, those were some of our favorites. We're sure there's other technologies and applications out there, but this was a really interesting read and bodes well for older adults and the population at large.