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Aging in Place: Senate Committee Explores Technology Benefits

We talk a lot about harnessing technology for senior care at Homecare California, and it’s encouraging to see that the subject is getting attention in the halls of Congress.

Last week, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing on the topic, “Aging in Place: Can Advances in Technology Help Seniors Live Independently?” The purpose of the hearing was to educate the committee about the potential of aging in place technology for older adults. Participating in the hearing, led by ranking member Claire McCaskill (D – Missouri), were senior care and technology experts, as well as a family caregiver.

Testimony from participants spoke to the benefits of such technology as telehealth with aging veterans, sensors to monitor or detect gait problems, and even an “assistive jogger” that helps less physically stable adults to continue exercising. One of the participants, the University of Maine’s Carol Kim, related that after a group of her students spend just an hour in a nearby nursing home, the students came up with 50 usable ideas for improving the quality of life for residents through technology.

The subject of personal monitoring technology; e.g., PERS was discussed at length. This popular technology is used to provide personalized emergency response for seniors, utilizing wearable or video technology. Senator McCaskill praised such technology, noting: “Recent advances in technology are providing new options for seniors and their families that can allow them to remain at home for longer by monitoring health status, detecting emergency situations and notifying health care providers about any changes in health status. These technologies can also make family members’ and caregivers’ lives easier by providing them with tools to support their loved ones and giving them peace of mind.”

However, panelists stressed the importance of ensuring that potentially invasive monitoring was genuinely opt-in for older adults and that it protected their privacy. They also emphasized the need to tailor the type of technology to a particular individual.

While impressed with the strides being made in monitoring and assistive technology, Senator McCaskill stressed the need to show cost savings if legislative support is sought. She stated, “If we figure this out, the cost savings are dramatic to the long-term problem we have with the demographic bubble that is represented with my generation going into Medicare. We’ve got to start monetizing these savings as quickly as possible. The more quickly we can monetize them, the more quickly we can begin adopting them as part of public policy preferences.”

Established in 1961, the Senate Special Committee on Aging serves as the Senate’s focal point for studying issues related to older Americans. The Committee can also conduct oversight of programs, as well as investigate reports of waste or fraud. It also published public policy materials on aging. While the Committee does not have legislative authority, its findings and legislative recommendations are frequently shared with Congress and have influenced aging policy for over 50 years.

We are optimistic that the Committee’s positive response at the recent hearing will bode well for the future integration of newer technologies into public policy and funding.

The Committee hearing is now available for video viewing.

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