At the fifth White House Conference on Aging, held this week and occurring only once a decade, technology took center stage for the first time.
Not only was the incorporation of technology into senior’s lives among six guiding principles for the conference, but Intel Corporation chairman Craig Barrett provided a keynote speech for the event.
In his speech, Barrett urged U.S. government leaders to seize the opportunity to apply technology to help solve the economic and social challenges faced by the country due to skyrocketing healthcare costs and a growing wave of aging citizens.
With nearly 35 million senior citizens in the United States, the country already spends 16 percent of its GDP (gross domestic product) on healthcare.
Forecasters estimate that 25 percent of the nation’s GDP will go toward healthcare as the number of senior citizens doubles during the next 20 to 30 years.
Barrett said the country’s economy cannot keep pace with the soaring costs of caring for an aging society. “We can make the healthcare system more cost-efficient while simultaneously improving the quality of care and life for our nation’s aging population,” said Barrett.
“No company, no industry, no country can afford to ignore the economic and social impact this wave of aging people will create.”
Technology and innovation targeted at the senior market were among the six defining principles for the event.
Priorities outlined for this sector include: developing creative products to support senior independence; creating awareness of available technologies; designing technology products that assist the broadest range of consumers; assuring the innovative and competitive leadership of American technologies; establishing a public-private partnership to harmonize the patchwork of policies, standards, and codes; and assuring rational technology policies that stimulate innovation and investment.
Developing technologies to keep people well and moving care from the hospital to the home are central to transforming the healthcare system, according to Barrett.
“A broad range of personal health technologies designed to go into the home hold hope for seniors to ‘age in place,’ maintaining their independence and deferring costly institutional care,” he said.
He pointed to new computer-based technologies and innovations in sensors, software and wireless technologies that can allow such vital information as heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and sleep patterns to be tracked remotely.
Intel is a founding member of the CAST (Center for Aging Services Technologies), a coalition of more than 400 technology companies, aging services organizations, research universities and government representatives collaborating to develop and deploy emerging technologies that can improve the aging experience in America.