Aging 2.0: Live Healthier, Longer and Smarter

In the US, 10,000 people turn 65 each day

The world’s population is aging, and the United Nations’ World Population Aging report paints a striking picture of the future. It states, “Population aging is unprecedented, without parallel in human history—and the twenty-first century will witness even more rapid aging than did the century just past,”[1](see Figure 1). In the United States, for example, every day since 2011, 10,000 people turn 65 years old, and this trend will continue until 2029.[2] By 2050, China will have more people aged 65 and older than the entire current population of the United States.

itech-dude-contents-PDAGG2000-2050 Aging 2.0: Live Healthier, Longer and Smarter | iTech Dude - The Technology BlogWHO and Frost & Sullivan

In light of these stark numbers, how might the future of aging look? Will digital technologies help, especially when “tech-savvy” and “elderly” are two terms that don’t generally go together, barring a few rare exceptions? The answer may be yes, especially for generations starting with Gen X and beyond; by 2030, the oldest Gen Xers will be 65! Luckily, they will not be subject to the challenges faced by seniors today. In fact, they will lead lives that would make today’s senior generation jealous. Consider some statistics: four in 10 65+ US seniors (42%) own smartphones, which is more than double the 2013 numbers, according to the Pew Research Center. Interestingly, the lower age bands in the senior population have higher internet use and broadband penetration, which supports the fact that Gen Xers are likely to be more tech-savvy (see Figure 2).

itech-dude-contents-InternetUse-and-Broadband-Figure-2-1200x409 Aging 2.0: Live Healthier, Longer and Smarter | iTech Dude - The Technology BlogPew Research Center

Senior Care = Highest Cost of Care

Given the rising incidence of chronic diseases, managing the health of seniors is becoming an increasingly difficult proposition. Because this age group accounts for a larger slice of healthcare expenditure, it also reflects an opportunity for savings through regular monitoring of their health conditions. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done today, especially with a globally rising population of seniors and stagnant or lowering numbers of skilled doctors and other care providers.

Seniors often face vulnerability, loneliness, boredom and isolation. Therefore, apart from the medical needs, seniors also have emotional needs like security (especially for those living alone); emotional connections with family, friends and the community; and the ability to participate in leisure activities.

Today’s solutions reflect piecemeal attempts at solving these challenges. Some approaches focus on holistic health management, while most try to monitor single health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease (read “lack of care coordination”); reimbursement for such services is another challenge altogether. On the emotional front, some volunteer associations (and even some start-ups in India) offer volunteer services to accompany seniors while performing their regular errands, or even to just play games and help them pass time. Variations thereof are also seen in the Nordic region, which combine children’s nurseries or college hostels and senior living facilities. Senior living communities help to a certain extent by taking care of both physical and emotional needs, but they do not allow seniors the freedom to live in their own homes or live life on their terms.

Tech-Savvy Aging

Frost & Sullivan keeps a close watch over the developments in the technology world and how they are applied to healthcare. Several innovative developments are truly transforming numerous areas of care, but senior care receives a lot of attention because the world’s senior population is growing and the manpower to take care of their needs is gradually diminishing; Japan’s aging situation today is a testament to what is to come. A significant part of the population is elderly, resulting in several healthcare challenges. Technology, then, becomes the savior, and we have found several such applications for senior care. The above video by CableLabs is a wonderful visual experience of what can become the future of aging; it is very much in line with our thinking.

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