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Health and Housing Expert Forum: The Role of Technology in Aging in Place

Welcome to the BPC Health and Housing Expert Forum. Each month contributors from different parts of the health and housing sectors will be invited to respond to a discussion topic. Have a question you’d like us to consider? Please leave it in the comments.

Any views expressed on this forum do not necessarily represent the views of the Health and Housing Task Force, its co-chairs or the Bipartisan Policy Center.

What role can technology play in enhancing the ability of seniors to age in place—in homes and in communities?

Technology: Catalyst for a New Era of Aging in Place
By Paul Irving and Arielle Burstein

In Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Hal, the defiant onboard computer, foreshadows a future of runaway artificial intelligence. More recently, fears about machines making work obsolete and apocalyptic visions of robot revolts have been subjects of discussion in think tanks, academic institutions and media outlets. As futurists debate the merits and risks of new technologies, we know today that technological progress is providing solutions for a new generation of older adults who seek to remain active, contributing and connected to their families, friends and communities. As we noted in our recent Milken Institute Best Cities for Successful Aging report, an overwhelming majority of older adults express a desire to age at home and in place. Technological advances may be an answer to that challenge.

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Technology for Well-being in Affordable Housing
By Bill Kelly

Technology is increasingly integrated into our lives. It is faster, more reliable and easier to use than ever. In the world of health care coordination and services, broadband and bluetooth technologies have made telehealth and other technologies feasible methods for delivering quality care, especially to people living in medically underserved areas where there is less access to convenient primary care. Despite these advances, we remain far from fulfilling the full promise and potential of telehealth, personal response systems, and passive sensor technology.

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Technology and Older Adults: The Best Has Yet to Come
By Ryan Frederick

So far, technology has been more sizzle than substance in the senior care field. A number of sophisticated companies, including Intel, have tried and failed to create a large market for technology for older adults. It is a difficult task: many seniors have not grown up with technology and invariably the technology has not been simple and user-friendly. Indeed, in a recent meeting with an innovation team within a leading health system, one executive acknowledged that many solutions are five to 10 times more complex than required for widespread adoption.

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Technology at Work for Seniors in Minnesota
By Loren Colman

The Minnesota Department of Human Services’ Continuing Care Administration has worked for the past several years to beef up the use of technology to help seniors age in place in their homes and communities. We have utilized grants within our community service/community Development grant program to fund providers that will move technology out of campus settings into the homes of seniors in the community. Prior to our efforts, the development and use of technology had largely been driven by providers of campus and congregate settings. Our senior housing industry has used technology in many ways, including substituting technology for staff, use of sensors to track frail elderly for urinary tract infection and falls, and for emergency response.

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