Capitol Hill Briefing Features Technologies That Could Transform the Lives of Seniors

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, in conjunction with the Medical Technology Caucus and with the assistance of the Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST), today hosted a briefing and technology demonstration on some of the latest innovations in services for America’s seniors.

At the briefing, experts on technology for the aging and current technology consumers discussed technology’s potential to facilitate independence and allow older Americans to remain in their own homes. Participants also addressed the need for supportive public policies to help accelerate bringing to the marketplace technologies that could transform the lives of older adults and those who care for them, including S. 908, a bill to establish the Consortium on the Impact of Technology in Aging Services.

“Over the next two decades, the United States is just one of many countries facing a doubling or even tripling of the number of people over the age of 60. This demographic storm will challenge every healthcare system, industry, nation and economy as we face epidemics of chronic disease and skyrocketing healthcare costs,” said Darrin Jones, director of business development for Intel’s digital health group. “We need to prepare for this storm by exploring how technologies might enable a new paradigm for care””helping one billion retirees by 2050 live healthier and happier lives from wherever they choose.”

“The current surge of private technology investment in home health will outfit homes with pervasive motion/location sensors, vital signs monitoring, blood and imaging diagnostics, intelligent analytic software, personalized prompter coaching interfaces, and Internet data transfer to care networks””functionally bringing the virtual care team and its resources into the home and obviating the need for many office visits and hospitalizations,” said Mike Magee, MD, senior fellow at CAST.

Honor Hacker, a resident at Lakeview Commons in Maplewood, Minn., brought the bill to life when she discussed how technologies including passive sensors in her apartment and “brain fitness” games helped her “stay connected, proactively manage my health and engage in life throughout life.” According to Kathy Bakkenist, whose organization, Ecumen, manages Lakeview Commons, passing S. 908 would help more seniors like Honor “receive the care they need with greater autonomy at a lower cost.”

CAST, a program of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA), also brought together leading technology companies and universities for a demonstration of technologies that offer hope for improving older people’s quality of life, while reducing health care costs, encouraging healthy behavior change and providing caregivers with support. Some of these technologies include:

    · Embedded sensors that can assess and improve an individual’s health status at home. These include sensors in chairs that measure vital signs and a “smart cane” that uses sensors to detect changes in a person’s step, signal instability and prevent falls. These technologies will be exhibited by the University of Virginia Health System and Oregon Health and Science University. Other exhibitors will display wearable sensors that collect health information, and offer treatment over the Internet.

    · A new computer program that uses touch screen technology and phone handset to test memory automatically. Other brain fitness technologies at the demonstration integrate online gaming to slow memory loss and use virtual communities to encourage social interaction and diminish isolation and loneliness.

    · A “Medication Advisor” system from Philips Lifeline that signals to a senior when it is time to take medication.

“Technological innovation is key to improving advancements in the quality of life. The technology here today will help seniors age in their own homes with dignity and lead longer, healthier, happier lives,” said Aging Chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.www). “However, the question remains: how do we get such technology into the hands of seniors who need it in an efficient and affordable way? The Consortium on the Impact of Technology in Aging Services will help us find that answer.”

“Technology can help older adults maintain their health and dignity and allow them to live independently in their homes for longer. For many aging Americans, this is their number one wish,” Larry Minnix, president and CEO of AAHSA said. “We call on Congress to pass S. 908 and help fulfill this wish for their elderly constituents and those who care for them.”

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