Can cutting-edge technology ease the burden of aging?

Man using a smartphone
Today's aging population could benefit from tech gadgets.

Researchers, venture capitalists and technology innovators have already rolled out a slew of gadgets aimed at transforming the way we care for the elderly. But one nagging question remains: Will patients use them?

Gadgets targeting America’s aging population are already hitting the market, according to Politico. Amazon’s Echo devices are being marketed to dementia patients, robots are interacting with nursing home residents, and wearable devices have the ability to track and analyze health data in real time.

But plenty of barriers prevent technology from being fully integrated into geriatric care, including cumbersome FDA recommendations and the fact that insurers, not patients, foot the bill for new technology. Beyond the logistical complications, the current older population tends to be resistant to technology. Future generations, however, may be more inclined to allow a robot to assist them with a bath.  

Bruce Leff, M.D., director of the Center for Transformative Geriatric Research at Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, told Politico that elderly patients will benefit from a healthcare environment that tries to keep them at home and avoid the potential complications of acute care. Technology may be the key to that transformation.

“I think pretty soon you’re going to see Amazon drones delivering intravenous medicines to be given in someone’s home and you’ll be able to get it quickly in the same way when I’m sitting at the hospital and I order antibiotics, or other intravenous medicines; I write an order, I click, it goes to hospital pharmacy, it’s delivered to the floor, the nurses put it in, and it’s done," he said.

Hospital stays can be risky for elderly patients, leading to unnecessary treatment, increased risk for readmissions and higher rates of mortality. However, seniors have been slow to adopt digital health tools and mHealth apps.