How can technology improve our lives as we age?

October 1 is the International Day of Older Persons.
October 1 is the International Day of Older Persons.
Image: Tiago Muraro/Unsplash
  • October 1 is the International Day of Older Persons.
  • This year’s theme is “Digital Equity for All Ages.”
  • We asked members of the World Economic Forum's Tech Pioneers and Global Innovators community how technology can improve our lives as we age.

The world population is ageing, and on average we are living longer. A person aged 65 years in 2015-2020 on average will live up to 82 years. By 2045-2050, this figure is expected to reach 84 years, an additional 2 years.

Digital tools and services can play critical roles in and enabling healthy and active ageing by promoting independence, enabling social participation and ensuring healthcare access. In 2017, the global technology market for older adults’ care was worth $5.6 billion and it is estimated to reach $13.6 billion by 2022 - a huge market opportunity to create products and services to support the increased life expectancy and empower older adults.

We asked members of the World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers and Global Innovators communities how technology can improve our lives as we age. Here is what the said.

Improve caregiver effectiveness

Tania Coke, Chief Executive Officer, Tellus You Care, USA

Technology can vastly improve caregiver effectiveness and reduce the costs of care. Remote patient monitoring, for example, is crucial to address rising costs and caregiver shortages. But technologies coming to market shouldn't aim to replace caregivers or human interactions; rather, they should aim to make caregivers more effective while performing difficult tasks, like treating patients in rural areas or working night shifts.

At Tellus our mission is to use technology to improve health outcomes for the older persons while preserving dignity and privacy. Our device monitors the health and activity of a person in a room without any wearables or cameras. Remote patient monitoring is going to be an important solution to how we help support a growing aging population. Companies like Tellus will help address rising costs in care and caregiver shortages.

Increase accessibility

Sylvana Sinha, Founder, Chair, & CEO, Praava Health, Bangladesh

Technology is transforming what is possible in healthcare and can significantly improve our lives as we age. As personal mobility declines over the years, simply getting to a doctor’s appointment can become immensely difficult. The pandemic has made accessibility even more challenging, especially for the older adults.

At Praava, technology allows us to increase the quantity and quality of healthcare for the older adults. Our patient-centric healthcare platform integrates digital health products - telemedicine, e-pharmacy, and AI/ML-powered virtual primary care - with high-quality in-clinic experiences, allowing everyone to be able to access quality healthcare wherever they are, and whenever it’s needed. The virtual primary care tool in particular helps to reduce unnecessary doctor and emergency room visits to better manage care remotely and predict acute escalations before they happen. As technology and remote monitoring tools continue to advance, we expect outcomes, longevity, and quality of life to continue to improve.

Facilitate healthy ageing at home

Charles Bark, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, HiNounou, Hong Kong SAR, China

As WHO stated, 80% of chronic diseases can be preventable if we trigger on the risk’s factors. After 12 years R&D, HiNounou launch in 12 countries an AI Preventive platform that facilitate Healthy Aging at home. With Home Wellness kit that contains various Internet of Medical Things (IoMT), we collect five dimensions data to early detect chronic diseases. However, collecting and monitoring data at home is not enough. We plug some of the best AI algorithms that are useful to evaluate risks of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even some cancers to facilitate the diagnosis of the doctors.

Today, most of solution for aging in place are very traditional and fragmented. Integrated digital technologies that aggregate {Genomic-Med-Insur}TECH solutions can significantly improve medical efficiency and reduce cost of care. To facilitate the AgeTech adoption for the older persons, HiNounou deliver senior friendly APP that embed audio guidance for user with simple User interface.

Improve early detection and early intervention

Nawal Roy, Chief Executive Officer, Holmusk, Singapore

Technology is improving the lives of people as we age through a combination of earlier detection and earlier intervention. Risk of metabolic disease and neuropsychiatric disorders grow as we age and to provide high quality care at scale, we need healthcare to become much more proactive. The challenge is most diseases don’t materially change one’s quality of life in the early stages, and so at-risk patients are often not captured until much later.

From genome sequencing to advanced analytics, we now have the means to truly tackle aging and its associated disorders early. The final key technological advance that will drive better outcomes as we age is the mapping of disease progression and a deeper understanding of the core drivers of disease. The world of aging and associated diseases is undergoing a massive transformation and technological advances are making significant progress in treating aging as a disease itself.

Ensure ethics and responsibility

Daniel Nathrath, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Ada Health, Germany

It’s a simple fact of life that, as we age, our health deteriorates. However, today’s technology has the potential to revolutionize our healthcare journeys and experiences and make a real difference to our quality of life as we age. A big part of this is data. Fragments of our health data are captured everywhere - in medical records, wearables, health apps, and more. When combined and used ethically and responsibly, that data can come together to provide powerful insights into our personal health, transforming our understanding - and, subsequently, management - of our own healthcare.

At Ada Health, our ambition is to generate accurate, reliable, and trustworthy data insights that can help people to detect risks early on, empowering them to act and build a proactive, preventative health plan to mitigate against diseases they may be more prone to later in life. As we age, that couldn’t be more important, and using technology to manage personal health can improve not only quality of life in later stages of life, but also increase life expectancy. The conversation around digital health and data insights has gained significant pace, but we’re still only scratching the surface. To make an even stronger impact, we need more transparent conversation and collaboration on this topic between clinicians, technology companies, policy makers and the people they serve."

Treat non-communicable diseases

Jim Flatt, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Brightseed Bio

Technology today can extend life expectancy and benefit our quality of life as we age. One core opportunity is in the prevention and amelioration of non-communicable diseases, many of which can dramatically cut life expectancy and impair quality of life. Forager® AI, created by Brightseed, illuminates bioactive compounds that have not yet been discovered in plants. Small molecule compound discovery in the plant kingdom can bring to light new compounds and skeleton structures that create novel health solutions.

These compounds are detected using advanced metabolomics and annotated for likely biological function using machine learning applied to large biomedical research datasets. With subsequent validation in human clinical trials, these novel bioactive compounds can become a part of daily regimens that improve healthspan, adding “more life to one’s years”. Forager already has identified natural plant compounds to help the body process unhealthy fats. Furthermore, these natural compounds can provide excellent starting points for novel therapeutics for an aging population.

Use AI to predict illness

Eyal Gura, Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board, Zebra Medical Vision, Israel

AI will take a more constant place in helping us predict illness and associated risk. More computing power and more data becomes available, and this is a fruitful ground for technology who can monitor our chronicle conditions as we age.

For example, as of January 2022 the US doctors (radiologists) will start being reimbursed for using AI on regular CT scans that were taken for various regular proposed, in order to detect vertebral fractures (key indicator for osteoporosis which effects 33% of females and 20% of males after the age of 60). This first ever CPT code for radiology AI , will pave the way for more to come and we shall see much more positive technology impact on our life as we age

Create a simple interface

Cyriac Roeding, Chief Executive Officer, Co-Founder, Earli, US

There is one thing almost all older persons want: to stay in their home for as long as possible, instead of entering an assisted living facility, and yet stay safe and connected. Imagine a hypothetical scenario: The very first thing your older loved one sees when she turns on her TV in the morning is a video message from her grandson that he has recorded on his cell phone. At 4pm, she likes to play bridge, but doesn’t have someone to play with - all she needs to do is turn on the TV, and three other older adults who also love to play bridge are available for a game via TV and voice.

The groceries get ordered and delivered simply by speaking out a shopping list, the TV reminds her when the next pill is due to be taken, and in the evening, an adult child comes by for a good conversation, instead of having to check on the pills. A companion app has told the adult child that all was well today, their mom moved around a lot, and communicated with others. The technology is there - we just have to connect the dots into a simple, beautiful interface.

Scale solutions

Mainul Mondal, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, for Ellipsis Health

Older persons deserve respect, compassion, and kindness – they are the ones who have created the world we know today. We owe it to them and our future-selves to make the world better for generations to come by harnessing technology that addresses the shortages and gaps in physical and mental healthcare.

It is our duty to be better servants to the world by imagining and inventing advancements in technology that can scale solutions for faster smarter pathways so the aging population can live longer, healthier, and happier lives.

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