Can mobile technology retool the world's seniors?
Some people believe there’s a science to aging well, and as the country’s 75 million Baby Boomers are, shall we say, coming of age, new organizations, methods and technologies are sprouting to keep this population vital, independent, engaged and mobile.
Mobile technologies and apps of all sorts are poised to play a significant role in redefining what it means to get old.
At the 2012 mHealth Summit, some of those technologies will be on display and demonstrated at the EngAGE Pavilion. Think of high-tech innovators. Think motion sensors, smartphones, wireless technology and more.
The pavilion, a new feature this year, is sponsored by the 40-million-member AARP and Aging 2.0, which bills itself as a global innovation network.
“We need to move away from viewing aging solely as a time of inevitable decline to one that can be rich with new innovations and possibilities,” former AARP CEO Bill Novelli wrote in a recent blog.
Novelli, a professor at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, cites a recent Philips study that found a majority of people age 65 or older are comfortable using technology, even as younger people indicate that only 42 percent of seniors use technology in their daily lives.
“We have to correct our perceptions of the aged and align them with reality,” Novelli said. “A realistic view will allow a greater scope for supporting older people to remain independent and active well into their later years.”
As Stephen Johnston, co-founder of Aging 2.0, sees it, that’s one reason why events like the mHealth Summit are critical. He supports what he calls “concerted joined-up efforts” – the kind that brings the best designers and technologists together – and also investors and the aging people who would benefit from new technologies.
“A plethora of devices and sensors will be available to monitor, manage and motivate an older population to take their meds, eat well, exercise and all the things that will enhance well-being and with any luck lifelong engagement,” mused Joseph Coughlin in a recent blog post. He should know – he's director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab.
“Despite the ‘gee whiz’ of technology, technology alone is not innovation,” Coughlin proffered. Innovation requires new thinking. A government-sponsored study, published last June seems to suggest the same.
The study, commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services and conducted by LeadingAge and NORC at the University of Chicago, concluded there is “strong evidence” of both clinical and economic benefits from the use of aging services technologies, or ASTs.
However, the study, which was mandated by the HITECH Act, also pointed to several challenges.