The vast majority of Americans want to age in place. Assistive technologies are helping them pull it off

Over 90% of respondents to a recent U.S. News and World Report survey said their goal is to age in place. A whopping 88% also reported that assistive or health-related technologies have improved their quality of life.

Medical or health-related mobile apps topped the list for which devices made it easiest to age in place, followed by service-related apps like grocery delivery and food delivery. The most common response to questions regarding the reasons to start using assistive, health-related technologies was general aging (55% of survey respondents) and mobility impairments such as arthritis or fibromyalgia (28%).

The study surveyed 2,000 Americans 55 years old or over, 47% of which stated that they don’t use assistive or health-related technologies. Seventy percent said they did not yet need the added support.

“I think the big takeaway is that more people are using these types of things,” Erica Beimesche, senior editor at U.S. News and World Report, told Fierce Healthcare. “It's just becoming more part of the fabric of life. People are staying connected to their families that way, especially during the pandemic. It can help empower people and make them feel safe and connected to their families.”

The country’s population of those older than 65 has grown by 20 million in the last two decades, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, expanding from 35 million in 2000 to 55 million in 2020. Based on the bureau’s estimates, for the first time, there will be more older adults in the country than children in the coming decades. By 2034, it is projected that people 65 and over will reach 77 million, compared to 76.5 million under the age of 18.

Aging in place is defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “the ability to live in one's own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.”

Of the respondents, 93% said aging in place is an important goal for them. Only 59% feel their home is somewhat ready with even less, 19%, saying their current home setup is completely prepared for the aging process.  

Within the group that does not yet use assistive technologies, 16% shared that they cannot afford the technologies and 14% reject the technologies in an effort to maintain their independence.

“A lot of people did say that cost was a factor, especially with recent inflation and the cost of living being so much higher,” Beimesche said. “Sixty-two percent of respondents said that the cost of living increases are making it more difficult for them to age in place.”

Over the last two decades, as the older population has grown, technology has been increasingly adopted by all corners of the population somewhat irrespective of age. In 2000, only 19% of adults over the age of 65 reported being internet users. Today, 75% of the same age group are internet users with 61% being smartphone owners, according to Pew Research Center.

A quarter of respondents use medical or health-related mobile apps while 17% wear medical or health-related trackers. Service-related apps were also popular with 24% reporting usage. During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Instacart, one of the most prevalent grocery apps, reported that seniors showed the largest jump in usage compared to all other age groups.

When using assistive tech, 75% said that ease of use was the most important factor in choosing which tech to use, half said they would prefer tech that is easy to set up, while 38% said accessibility using a mobile app was important and 37% said wireless capabilities were integral to new technologies.

While surmounting a learning curve, 30% of respondents said they relied on product guides, 22% learned from family and friends, and healthcare workers supported 19% of users in adapting to new tech.