Our population is ageing, often moving back into urban areas to retire. An increasing older population can have a detrimental impact on the healthcare sector if proactive and viable solutions are not implemented. In this article, we explore the positive impact that technology can have on reducing healthcare requirements within an ageing population.
Emerging Technologies To Support An Aging Population
On average, the global population is getting older. By the year 2040, nearly one in every seven people is expected to be over the age of 75. By 2035, London will be home to over 2 million people over the age of 65. Caring for this growing population of seniors is a challenge that the world must solve. Technology such as smart cities, cloud computing and the growing number of devices that are connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) may hold the key to overcoming these challenges. Let’s explore the future of ageing and technology.
Smart Cities and the Ageing Population
One of the key trends in more recent years is seniors moving back to urban centres. Baby Boomers moved to the suburbs to raise their families; now, they are downsizing and moving back into urban apartments. Many cities are exploring the possibility of using Smart technology and cloud services to make them more liveable, especially for seniors.
One example of this technology is the GPS mobile app BlindSquare that helps blind and visually impaired individuals navigate the city with greater ease. It describes the environment, including intersections, points of interest and it provides directions. The city of Tilburg, Netherlands, is using an app that gives those who are mobility-challenged more time to cross the street. If someone has the app installed, a sensor in the Smart traffic light will sense them on the pavement and change the timing of the light to give them more time to cross the street.
The Internet of Things and Healthcare
It is a fact of life that as the population ages, they require additional healthcare. The ageing population places an increasing demand on a healthcare system that is already facing severe shortages in manpower and resources; but there is hope – technology may hold the answer to caring for our seniors.
One example of this is the app ConnectedLife Independent Living Technology. This technology uses a cloud network of sensors in the home of the senior that monitors their activities. It analyses daily patterns and sends alerts to family members via a mobile app if something is out of the ordinary. It can monitor thousands of data points, including sleep patterns, bodily functions and health parameters. It can also monitor if there is a pipe leak or something wrong with the heating system. Smart technology will allow seniors to safely remain at home.
Voice Recognition Software
Voice recognition software is a technology that is becoming familiar to most of us. We use it to program the navigation system of our car, to control our electronics and to reach the correct customer service representative. Having these systems assistants, such as Alexa, allows us to instantly reach out and connect with someone, order groceries or search by voice.
Think of a person with physical disabilities; many daily tasks, such as turning off the lights, making a pot of coffee or being able to get to the phone when they need help may be challenging. Voice-activated systems might allow them to remain at home instead of in a long-term care facility.
Wearable technology, such as smartwatches, may be able to keep a better eye on your health than a person can. They are gaining popularity for monitoring things such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar and adherence to medication schedules. They can also be used to monitor the wearer for falls and other health emergencies.
Wearable smart technology goes well-beyond tracking your steps and how much water you drink; wearables can be programmed to send continual, real-time data to a healthcare professional. It can help to detect a health condition even before symptoms begin to appear. This type of technology, when paired with GPS, also shows potential for caring for those with dementia or Alzheimers in case they accidentally escape for an unauthorised afternoon stroll. Wearables allow seniors to live independently for a much longer time under the watchful eye of technology.
Remaining mobile is the key to independence. Some of the most exciting advances in technology for the ageing population is in the area of mobility. Currently, devices are under development that are like a robotic exoskeleton that can assist with balance or improved range of motion. They are working on developing a brain-computer interface to use as a control device for these systems. Similar systems are under development to help with transfers, such as from sitting to standing, and to help with walking.
Virtual reality systems are being developed to help with exercises for reducing the speed of cognitive decline and, in some cases, to provide physical rehabilitation. Virtual reality is not a replacement for human contact, and technology that allows visual communication with loved ones may help close the gap. With technology, family and friends do not have to be so far away.
Future Of An Ageing Population
The future of ageing and technology goes beyond convenience. The term, ‘ageing in place’ is the new word for using technology to allow seniors to remain in their homes longer and to take the burden off the healthcare system. In many cases, this new technology will enable seniors to receive a high level of care, such as continual monitoring of health conditions. Smart cities are striving to become more senior-friendly and are catering to the needs of their older inhabitants. Remaining independent in our elder years affords a much higher quality of life in comparison to the current system. With the use of technology, our golden years can be ones spent active, happy and healthy.