In the lead up to the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, considerable focus was placed on the interface of aging and technology. As the Conference approached, and an analysis of aging Boomers with high functionality and high expectations came front and center, the vision expanded and raised the question, “How might technology extend independence, productivity and quality of life for our nation’s oldest citizens?”
Eight years have passed and the vision continues to expand. Today the questions are:
1. How might technology be applied to re-engineer homes for health.
2. How do we assure maximum connectivity to support aging citizens as part of the multigenerational family.
3. How do we support a mobile, changing health workforce and enhance communications between these team members and the people they serve.
4. How do we increase the efficiency and effectiveness of management of our chronic disease burden, while simultaneously building a strong foundation for strategic health planning, disease prevention, and wellness.
We now realize that evolving health technology should be both assistive and transformational. In supporting our most senior citizens in home design, care team connectivity, mobility, cognition, entertainment, learning and employment, we are offered the opportunity to reorient our support for all of our citizens and their families around a more home-centered approach.
As connectivity reaches a critical mass, smart appliances, sensors, home diagnostics, lifespan planning tools, and converging, image-rich human interfaces are each seeking out their appropriate place in a different type of society where health is about reaching your full human potential regardless of age and disability, and where disease is something to avoid rather than something to treat.
Such a vision focuses on healthy bodies and healthy minds. It assists memory as well as mobility. It harnesses software and hardware to not only improve individual quality of life, but to also advantage family, community and societal goals.
Independence implies responsibility centered on individuals and their networks of support including family, friends and caring professionals. As citizens we have differing capabilities and needs, and these change as we age. We must help each other and advantage virtual connectivity as well as the full range of technologic applications available.
The revolutionary strength of modern information and scientific technologies is that “they ignore geography.” In so doing they allow us to reorient and connect beyond the limits of a range of barriers whether they be physical, social, financial or political. The danger is not in over-reaching but in under-reaching.
Our vision must be sufficiently forward looking and expansive to challenge technology innovators.
1. Where are the “killer applications” that would allow lifespan planning to move us ahead of the disease curve?
2. How can we target technologic advantages in health to first reach our citizens most at risk?
3. How do we marry powering the health technology revolution with expansion of health insurance?
4. How do we incentivize our citizens and their caregivers to work together to create a truly preventive and holistic health delivery system that is equitable, just, efficient, and uniformly reliable?
5. How can each citizen play a role in ongoing research and innovation, and help define lifelong learning and behavioral modification as part of good citizenship?
6. What can corporate America do to advance health in the broadest sense of the word, and in “doing good,” do well financially, serving Main Street as it serves Wall Street?
Technology offers the flexibility and fluidity to pursue health, independence, mobility, financial security, social engagement and cognition in hundreds of thousands of uniquely different environments simultaneously, while also pursuing a single unified and collectively committed vision for our nation.