A March 2016 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, PCAST, recommends ways to help older adults remain independent, improving their ability to live in their homes and their communities longer. PCAST focuses on technologies and policies that foster independence, purpose, and engagement for older Americans. The report takes into account the need for social connectivity and physical and emotional well-being.
The population is aging. In 2014, 46 million Americans were over 65, some 15 percent of the population. People are living longer. They are living with fewer functional limitations as they age. More than four in ten older adults report excellent or very good health status. And, one study found that almost nine in ten would like to remain in their homes as long as possible. While older adults are in better health than ever before, two out of three have multiple chronic conditions. Support services can be invaluable to them, yet many are unaffordable.
PCAST looks at four changes many people experience as they age with the aim of recommending support services to make it easier for older adults to age in place: hearing loss, increasing social isolation, physical change and cognitive change. A report issued in March 2015 focuses on hearing loss. This report focuses on the other three changes and emphasizes their interrelationship. For example, if a person is unable to leave home, the person is more likely to be socially isolated, and the person’s social isolation can affect her mental health.
PCAST offers 12 ways to promote independence and aging in place for older adults through technology. Here are five of the recommendations:
- Federal policy that promotes affordable internet access and training for older adults. Broadband access is key for social connectivity. It can help older adults be aware of local resources, volunteer opportunities and jobs. Broadband access also allows for telehealth and easy communication with caregivers.
- Sensors that monitor behaviors and activities of older adults also could add tremendous value, allowing caregivers to know whether an older person is safe at home. Of course, privacy and security issues need to be fully understood.
- The federal government should encourage banks and other financial institutions to improve ways to monitor and protect older adults from financial scams. PCAST states that “Financial exploitation of older adults is massively underreported.” The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers tips for people to protect themselves and the people they love.
- Federal agencies should promote the setting of minimum design standards for homes and products, which recognize people’s declining mobility as they age. Housing should have accommodations that make it easier for people to remain in their homes even if they have difficulty moving around. New technologies should be used to design and create lighter, more durable and more comfortable wheelchairs. And, packaging of foods and medical supplies should be designed so that older adults do not have to struggle to open them.
- Federal government needs to explore changes to its Medicare and Medicaid coverage policies that allow people to receive services at home, in particular telemedicine services.
PCAST notes that there is no evidence that digital games of any sort promote memory or cognitive well-being. And, the federal government should be protecting older adults from spending money on these products.
Here’s more from Just Care:
- Three ways to address hearing loss as you age
- PACE helps older adults stay in their community
- Sensors offer peace of mind to caregivers
- Benefits and risks of telemedicine