Health and Healthcare Systems

8 tech innovations that support a healthy ageing population

Healthy ageing – older woman using phone with ring light.

Using digital platforms can assist with healthy ageing by improving cognitive ability. Image: Pexels.

Nathalie Giroud
Professor of Computational Neuroscience of Speech & Hearing, University of Zurich
Sanskriti Thakur
Chief Growth Officer Medable Inc., and World Economic Forum Council Member
Poorna Iyer
Director of Growth & Markets, Medable Inc.
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Global Health

  • Increased life expectancy does not equal a healthy and autonomous lifespan.
  • The ageing population requires solutions to assist with healthy living.
  • We outline eight key areas of ingenuity and impact in the field of ageing tech.

We’re living longer. But are we ageing better? When do we begin to age? When do we start preparing for retirement? When do we begin to screen for life threatening conditions?

With a shift in mindset and the advancement of science, the future of healthy longevity seeks to prolong health and overall wellbeing across the life span. New solutions are being developed around the world today that will dictate the quality of longevity now and in the future.

Have you read?

Healthy ageing is no longer limited to the physical and medical support of the maturing population. It seeks to support emotional, social, educational and financial wellbeing of individuals.

Analysis of innovations that impact healthy ageing

We began our exploration by combining various recent academic research on innovation in healthy ageing. We then examined research on related companies using syndicated data sources, regardless of size and maturity, to get a comprehensive view of ageing related technology. These innovations and some related examples have been divided into eight segments based on their areas of impact in the human “healthspan” and then split across three categories representing the stages of the ageing process as shown below.

1. Financial freedom and stability

Technology can allow for more financial freedom and security in the face of longevity. Some innovations subvert the conventional idea of rigid retirement plans. Low cost and personalized financial plans provide access to retirement planning to people across economic backgrounds.

Other interesting innovations connect businesses with senior retired talent. Businesses can leverage the accumulated experience and skills of mature talents, while the latter continue to have access to professional opportunities and greater financial flexibility.

2. AI and digital markers supporting early detection of disease

Preventing future illnesses is another important aspect of healthy ageing. It includes promotion of a healthy lifestyle, as well as early detection of ageing signs and risk factors for diseases.

While the market is currently still larger for treatment, prevention can reduce healthcare costs drastically. Digital methods to monitor and detect diseases in the early stages have rapidly developed in recent years.

AI-based technologies using biomarkers like electrophysiological data of the brain, or voice, breathing or coughing as diagnostic markers enable early detection. Through such intervention, disease progress can be arrested early or better managed.

3. Health status monitoring and connecting with healthcare professionals

Digital monitoring of daily vital signs provides the opportunity to manage a broad range of diseases in older adults. Advances in technology currently allow for screening of numerous vital signs at home without engaging dedicated personnel or using multiple devices. Some devices are also capable of detecting subtle changes in health status and, in case of emergency, directly connect the individual to a healthcare professional.

4. Affordable healthcare

The provision of healthcare has experienced a revolution in recent years. A major component is access for everyone and more family-centered healthcare thus addressing intergenerational dialogue and needs in healthcare. Certain options allow for an "ageing at home" approach by engaging caregivers, families and even insurers. Creating personalized, data driven and integrative plans that can proactively predict need for medical or physical interventions has the potential to reduce long term medical costs.

5. Addressing sensory decline

Hearing loss is the top, potentially modifiable, risk factor of dementia and needs to be addressed early on to decrease fall risk, cognitive impairment, social isolation and other negative health outcomes. A new generation of hearing aids is being created, including hearing aids that are steered by the brain. Medical innovations are being developed that can even protect the hair cells of the inner ear from deterioration due to age or other reasons.

6. Stabilization of cognitive functioning

Innovations in the domain of cognitive training include activities that are based on daily life (e.g. board games), but with a twist. Individualized and more engaging, these activities are designed specifically for the needs of an ageing population.

For example, senior-friendly immersive experiences in virtual reality and added gamification elements to traditional cognitive training are creating a more interactive way for elderly people to maintain their cognitive health.

7. Connecting older adults on digital platforms

Social connectedness and lifelong learning are vital parts of a healthy lifestyle and ageing process. Connecting the two factors could have a high impact on solving public health issues such as loneliness, depression and anxiety.

Some thoughtful inventions also target a sometimes overlooked category: elderly suffering from hearing-loss or paralysis. Specialized devices use features like touchscreens, sensors, pre-saved numbers etc. to allow users to communicate with friends and family independently.

8. Mobility and transportation

Mobility is another essential area where technology is proving to add value in older adults’ lives while boosting their confidence and independence.

Specialised ride booking is one area that can facilitate better mobility for older adults. These offer rides with drivers who are trained in basic emergency medical aid, allowing the elderly to confidently engage in everyday activities like grocery shopping, visiting friends and family etc. This enables senior citizens to lead a fuller and independent life.

Academic and syndicated data was used in this analysis. Please email poorna.iyer@medable.com for additional information and data sources.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Health and Healthcare SystemsEmerging Technologies
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