More than half of adults age 55 and older use assistive technology — including mobile health apps and fitness trackers — to stay healthier so they can age in place, according to a May 2023 U.S. News & World Report survey. Aging in place, as defined by the CDC, is “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.”
More than three quarters of older adults want to age at home or in their communities, according to AARP. The U.S. News analysis found that 93% of the 2,000 people they polled want to do so. However, getting older may also mean dealing with health issues like mobility problems, vision, hearing or cognitive limitations. That can make remaining at home more challenging. While there are some programs that can assist with this process, many older people are left trying to figure out how to best adapt on their own. This is when technology can help.
Why it matters
Reporters need to keep an eye on the aging population. By 2034, there will be more people over 65 than under 18 (77 million vs. 76.5 million), according to the Census Bureau. This burgeoning population will continue to place new demands on health care delivery, housing and technology.
Fifty-three percent of those in the U.S. News survey said they use assistive tech. Among the most popular are medical- or health-related mobile apps (25%) and wearable medical alert systems (17%). Other commonly used technologies include smart home devices, hearing assistance devices and service delivery apps like Instacart.
Of the 47% of older adults who said they don’t use any type of assistive technology, the majority (70%) say they don’t feel a need for it yet. The rest cited high cost (16%) or a fear of losing independence (14%).
Among those who use and embrace tech as a means to help them age in place, ease of use (75%), ease of setup (50%), accessibility from a mobile app (38%) and wireless capability (37%) were most important. Voice activation and discreet product design for wearables were also brought up as prime considerations.
Among tech users, nearly 9 in 10 people in the U.S. News survey said technology has improved their quality of life, giving them greater independence and mobility while making them feel safer and healthier.
Aging in place can be challenging for even the healthiest of older adults, the survey noted. Cost of living, need for home modifications, health of a spouse, availability of public transportation, social services, and isolation are just some of the many factors that impact older adults’ well- being and quality of life.
Journalists can look to successful concepts like the Village model or Westchester County, New York’s Center for Aging in Place to see whether similar options might be available in their own communities.
- Aging in place: a guide for journalists
- The Center for Aging in Place
- Aging in place tips and guidelines from the National Institute on Aging
- Aging in Place Technology Watch from analyst Laurie Orlov
- Age tech challenges and trends, a 2022 AHCJ article co-authored by Health IT leader Karen Blum. You can also watch the webinar on this issue.
- This story on robots as caregivers, also by Blum