For professionals working within the field of senior care, conferences prove to be a valuable opportunity to connect with esteemed colleagues, collect insightful information, and gather the occasional goodies from booths on the exhibitor floor. Most importantly, conferences have the power to ignite attendees with exceptional energy and excitement that they bring back to their organizations to inspire fresh ideas, goals, and innovations.
This past August, we had the pleasure of joining hundreds of Health and Human Services professionals at the 2017 National Home & Community Based Services (HCBS) Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. With discussions surrounding the most pertinent challenges facing seniors and persons with disabilities in the ever-changing landscape of healthcare policies and technological advancements, HCBS did not disappoint attendees searching for ways to connect seniors with breakthrough technologies to bring them the right care and services.
The Changing Relationship of Seniors and Technology
As of 2014, the population of adults aged 65 years and older in the United States reached 46.2 million – these people either currently need or will soon need access to care. Unfortunately, a stigma exists surrounding this population and their technology preferences, with the perception that most older adults do not prefer to use technology over face-to-face in communications. However, trends for older adults and the use of the Internet, social media, and electronic devices are at an all-time high. Pew research finds that 67% of older adults go online and one if four have a smartphone. With this data and the general perception of technology among older adults turning positive, the world of senior care may need to rethink current models of service delivery with more touchpoints for technology.
How Important is Technology?
With many sessions at the HCBS conference focused on topics surrounding seniors and technology, the community of Health and Human Services is learning just how vital the role of technology is among senior care. As seniors suffering from dementia, for example, lack awareness of cognitive impairment, have impairments in vision, along with many other vulnerabilities, the need for potentially life-saving technology is apparent. In-home modifications such as grab bars, handrails, adjustable shower heads, may work to prevent falls, but more hi-tech devices exist including sensor-based technologies, wearable and non-wearable sensors that are becoming more popular to monitor seniors living alone with diseases such as dementia.
Not only do seniors benefit from the increasing role of technology in communication and monitoring, caregivers are also benefiting from the role of technology to meet a variety of diverse demands. Recently, caregivers have expressed an interest in technology to help them with medication refill and pick up, monitoring medication adherence, and with checking in on or monitoring care recipients when leaving the home. With the increasing role of technology helping those in need, seniors can live more comfortable and confident lives.
A Technology Connection
Information & Referral/Assistance is an example of one such technology helping to connect seniors and caregivers to valuable resources to increase livelihoods. There are hundreds of many wonderful services and resources available to the senior community, but struggling to connect with the right services—whether it be a food service, medication services, or even help with transportation—is a huge obstacle for many. With information and referral platforms, seniors can easily connect with an agent who can find potential life-saving information and services. I&R/A, according to the 2015 Survey of Aging and Disability I&R/A Agencies, is one of the most important services provided to older adults, individuals with disabilities, and their caregivers. And, because of this great importance, there are over 11,400 senior centers with information and referral/assistance programs today, serving more than 1 million older adults every day.