Hitting “Refresh” on Technology & Older Adults’ Independence

In 2016, the President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology issued the report Independence, Technology and Connection in Older Age. A recent paper took a closer look at this report’s recommendations for how technology can improve the independence of older adults, as well key issues that need to be addressed for the report’s recommendations to be successfully implemented.

The report covered three main areas related to improving older adult independence: social connectivity and emotional health, changes in cognitive ability, and changes in physical activity. Overall, 12 recommendations related to these areas were made.

One major suggestion was the creation of a national plan to ensure that all older adults have broadband Internet access. In addition, the report recommends education and training in technologies, as well as the creation of guidelines that can help consumers better evaluate the various monitoring technologies available for older adults.

Encouraging innovation was another area of recommendation. One idea was government financing for research in areas such as technology for communication, robotics, mobility, cognitive training, and home monitoring. In some areas, recommendations were for changes in payment policies to support innovations in the areas of telehealth and assistive technologies. To accelerate better product design for older adults, the report suggested better design guidelines for technology and essential items like food and medical supplies.

Other recommendations were geared toward protecting older adults, such as encouraging the financial services sector to offer monitoring services to older adults to protect against fraud and exploitation. Another was for continued regulatory review and guidelines for commercial cognitive training products. Another was for the creation of effective communication systems to assist older adults in emergency situations.

The report also calls for greater coordinated action across agencies whose purview includes factors related to independent aging. To facilitate this, the report recommends a one-year task force of the National Science and Technology Council as well as the creation of a standing public-private council that would include industry, academia, and advocacy organizations.

This paper notes some major challenges related to the above recommendations. At present, only a few of the recommendations are being actively reviewed by relevant agencies. Another challenge is equitable access to technology, so that all older adults can benefit from advances. Another challenge is that policies need to support both the development and rapid scaling of technology solutions so that agencies can keep up with changes in technology and maximize their impact.



Lindeman DA. Improving the independence of older adults through technology: directions for public policy. Public Policy & Aging Report (2017); Volume 27(2): 49–52.


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