Every day, new innovations help make life a little easier for older Americans, whether it’s video chatting with family or monitoring their heart rate with a smart watch. Cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, autonomous transportation systems, the internet of things, and next-generation wireless networks hold significant promise for enhancing independence, safety, overall mental and physical well-being, and health of older generations. The number of Americans over the age of 65 is growing rapidly and may reach nearly a quarter of the population in the next forty years. With an aging population, the Nation must proactively develop strategies, tools, and recommendations to enable older adults to live healthy, independent lives for as long as possible. Accordingly, the Trump Administration has made finding and assessing potential solutions for an aging population a research and development (R&D) priority.
Today, the Trump Administration released a new report, Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population, identifying innovations that have the potential to improve quality of life for all Americans, particularly those who live with physical or cognitive burdens due to aging or disability. Importantly, the report also identifies the R&D needed to bring these innovations to fruition.
Drafted by experts convened from across the Federal Government by the National Science and Technology Council, the report highlights six key ways technology has the potential to help Americans live longer, healthier, and more independent lives. These include:
- Key Activities of Daily Living. Technology could help older Americans perform many of the activities that comprise independent living, such as eating well, maintaining good hygiene, and managing medications. The report recommends key R&D to advance smart home technology and innovations that promote faster healing and safer, more accurate medication delivery.
- Cognitive Skills. Cognitive changes are common during aging and can eventually affect one’s ability to live independently and safely. Further R&D holds the promise of advancing technology to help older adults monitor changes in their cognition, provide mental training to reduce the impact of these changes, and create systems that help individuals and families maintain financial security.
- Communication and Social Connectivity. Older adults may face communication challenges as a result of hearing loss, social isolation, and loneliness, especially in economically distressed and rural areas. Technology has the potential to improve hearing abilities, and strengthen connections to family, loved ones, and communities.
- Personal Mobility. To live independently, older Americans must be able to move around their homes and throughout the larger community with comfort and ease. Technology could help older adults stay mobile and safely continue to perform key activities necessary for day-to-day life.
- Access to Transportation. True independence requires mobility outside of one’s home and immediate neighborhood. Transportation needs and limitations vary depending on how a person’s physical and cognitive abilities change with age. For example, some older adults may be able to drive but require vehicle modification and/or advanced technologies to assist them. New technology could also help older adults more safely and easily use public transportation. Additional R&D into assistive systems that help keep drivers safe and technologies that support easy access to public transportation will allow older Americans to remain connected to social, health, and business facilities.
- Access to Healthcare. Routine access to healthcare plays a critical role in helping older adults stay active and independent as they age. The report highlights the need for enhanced R&D into technology that could help align and coordinate care, and to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare services.
In addition to the six primary areas listed above, the report recommends cross-cutting themes that are critical to the widespread adoption of new technologies among older Americans, including intuitive, user-friendly designs as well as addressing privacy and security considerations.
Getting these cutting-edge innovations into homes and communities will require R&D across a wide range of disciplines, spanning the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. But the potential is profound; Resilient, cost-effective materials could keep surfaces free of bacteria, innovative sensor and actuator systems could keep people comfortable during long periods in bed, new household robots could assist with food preparation, and much more. The Emerging Technologies to Support an Aging Population report not only identifies areas of technology that can significantly impact Americans’ quality of life as they age, but also recommends areas of R&D where public and private sector efforts can help bring those innovations to life.
Our Nation stands on the verge of truly transformational breakthroughs in technology that will shape all aspects of our daily lives for years to come. President Donald J. Trump has led his Cabinet in the expansion of rural broadband so older Americans in all parts of our Nation can benefit from these technologies. The Trump Administration understands that targeted R&D combined with the removal of regulatory barriers can lead to untold innovation and discovery. This report serves as a guide to the public and private sector to ensure aging Americans reap all the benefits of emerging technologies on the horizon. The rising tide of 21st century innovation should lift up Americans of all generations and all walks of life.