Health Technology is Supporting Aging in Place

Updated on February 26, 2023

Our population is aging, and most older Americans express a strong desire to age in place. Find out how applying advanced technology to support dedicated, personalized elder care represents the future of health technology.

People in America are living longer than ever. They’re also having fewer children. As the Baby Boomers generation shifts into retirement mode, the net result for the United States is a rapidly aging population. In fact, according to the US Census Bureau, the number of Americans over 65 grew by 34% between 2010 and 2020, making it our country’s fastest growing age group. The bureau expects this growth to continue for decades.

People in this expanding demographic express a strong desire to age in place. According to AARP Research, 76% of Americans over 50 hope to remain in their current residence for life, and 77% wish to stay in their current community indefinitely.

Obstacles Prevent Elderly From Aging Comfortably at Home

Realistically, aging in place calls for informal support from spouses, partners, family members, friends and neighbors. Typically, formal caregivers like paid support workers will also play a role in assisting daily living.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have declared caregiving a public health issue. The number of US caregivers rose from 43.5 million in 2015 to 53 million in 2020. About a third of these caregivers devote more than 20 hours a week to care, and over half have been caregiving for two years or longer.

Census data shows that roughly 69% of adults over 85 have at least one disability, the most common challenge being mobility. This ties into the survey’s number two issue, difficulty running errands, visiting health care providers and shopping.

Support For Informal Caregivers Provide Would Cost $470 Billion

Patients are grateful for caregiver support, and we should all share in their appreciation. After all, the support informal caregivers provide would cost nearly $470 billion a year if it had to be purchased.

Fortunately, emerging technology can help families keep loved ones at home. By combining appropriate web-based tools with personalized care, families can work around the challenges posed by errands and medical appointments.

For example, many older Americans have multiple chronic conditions and related prescriptions. That makes improved medication management essential to helping seniors carry on living comfortably where they choose to reside.

U.S. Pharmacist reports that 44% of men and 57% of women over 65 take five or more medications per week. A core group of 12% in this age range require ten or more pharmaceutical products weekly.

The sheer number of medications prescribed, often combined with a degree of cognitive decline, can make medication adherence haphazard. As former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop famously said, “Drugs don’t work in patients who don’t take them.”

People in this age group can also be overprescribed medications, an issue pharmacists call polypharmacy. Despite mobility issues, caregivers spend a substantial percentage of their time taking patients to visit multiple prescribers and dispensaries to manage their complex conditions.

Without central monitoring, prescription duplication and adverse drug interactions can occur. Polypharmacy also adds avoidable costs to our healthcare system.

Innovation in Dispensing Patient Medication

Addressing these public health issues requires innovation in dispensing patient medication. By blending personalized care with leading-edge technology, we can improve patient compliance, avoid overprescribing and reduce the burden on our health system.

For example, consider dedicated personal care coordinators. This model lifts the burden from patients and caregivers. Personal care coordinators make themselves accessible and centralize prescriptions. They can also correspond with each of the patient’s physicians and process insurance claims and approvals.

Personalized Service + Technology

It’s crucial that personalized service be backed by state-of-the art technology. In fact, working with this patient demographic, it is particularly important that enabling technologies underpin dedicated, personalized patient care.

Technology simplifies the lives of formal and informal caregivers. For instance, allowing them to review a patient’s medication list and forward them to health care providers, or easily managing the contact information for other caregivers supporting the patient.

These services improve patient quality of life by freeing caregivers from completing forms and contending with calls, voice mails, emails and texts. They can use the time saved to simply be present with the patient.  

Freed from the administrative burden, caregivers can provide comfort and social connection. After all, that’s what patients and caregivers had in mind when they opted for aging at home in the first place.

Blended Approaches Represent the Future of Health Technology

The way forward to a future with better healthcare experiences will involve human interaction underpinned by a sophisticated technical infrastructure that’s transparent to patients and accessible to caregivers.

The combined strategy is vital for our aging population to remain in their own homes with the dignity they’ve earned. It also delivers elder care more efficiently, containing costs for our health care system.

Lawrence Margolis is CEO at PersonalRX.
Lawrence Margolis

Lawrence Margolis is CEO at PersonalRX.