There’s no question that advances in healthcare and medical technologies have allowed us to live longer, but for many living longer has not necessarily meant living better. In fact, for as much as technology has extended the average lifespan, it has, for the most part, done nothing to help fill those extra years with meaning or joy. Not only that, but extra years mean extended continuing care, which adds stress to individuals, families, and health care practitioners.
Enter “age tech,” an ever-growing landscape of websites, apps, and connected devices that more and more people are using for everything from managing medications, to coordinating visits with doctors or other healthcare practitioners, to staying connected with friends and loved ones.
Although adoption has been slow (what’s that line about teaching an old dog new tricks?), the market for senior-specific technology is huge, and getting bigger every year, and if deployed correctly, “age tech” has a chance to radically simplify our golden years, and even help make end-of-life care more comfortable and natural.
I’ve often thought that for all the technology designed to prolong life, there has tragically been little done to make those extra years meaningful, leaving many seniors feeling isolated and alone. In fact, it doesn’t take a scientific study (although many have been done) to tell me that one’s living environment and connection with one’s community has a significant role in one’s quality of life, sense of comfort, lifespan and one’s overall wellbeing.
Now consider that over half of seniors today receive end-of-life care in an acute care facility (hospitals, emergency rooms, or palliative care facilities) and you start to get the sense that there is a startling disconnect that exists between extending life and improving life.
So in an effort to add both meaning and simplicity to one’s golden years, the tech industry is increasingly creating helpful solutions that can not only improve care through data collection and increased connection with healthcare providers, but can improve quality of life through increased connection with family members and by offering access to useful and entertaining online services and tools.
“We can pretty much monitor people in real time these days, which is great,” Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research told TechNewsWorld. “It helps not only understand what going on with them — but provides a lot of early warning analysis.”
I doubt I need to say that such connection can have a variety of benefits for the individual and healthcare in general, and as a market it has huge growth potential.
“One, it offsets a lot of health costs,” McGregor said. “And two, this is a huge growth industry, especially as populations age in the U.S., and in Japan and other industrialized nations. There’s a tremendous amount of money being put into this.”
“Predictably, technology is playing an ever-increasing role in assisting seniors to age with grace and dignity in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes, particularly with respect to direct health issues and concerns,” said Jeff Krueger, CEO of SAFE HOMECARE.
Of course while technology can play an important role, don’t consider this a replacement for quality, licensed caregivers, who can bring meaning, joy and comfort to many in their later years, but instead think of “age tech” as a way of offsetting the difficulties that improved healthcare technology created in the first place, offering ways for people in their golden years to have better control of their lives, to stay connected, and to have a handle on their health, all at their fingertips.