By John P. Holdren and Cecilia Muñoz
As the Obama Administration prepares to host the 2015 White House Conference on Aging, we have been engaging with older Americans, caregivers, families, researchers, leaders in the field of aging, and other stakeholders across the country to hear about their most important issues. These individual conversations have helped us identify some common themes, including:
- Ensuring that older Americans are financially prepared for retirement
- Maintaining individuals’ health as they age
- Identifying services and supports that can help older adults live independently in their communities as they age and finding ways to support the caregivers who help them
- Protecting older Americans from financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect
Advances in science and technology hold much promise for helping older Americans remain healthy and prepare for their future across all of these themes. For example, technology may help older Americans to exercise, take medication on time, eat healthy meals, and connect with family and friends. It can also make it easier for them to travel, find volunteer/employment opportunities, prevent financial exploitation, and live independently in their homes. Advances in the neurosciences of memory and cognition may lead to engaging games and smartphone apps that could prevent or slow cognitive decline. Recognizing the promise and potential of advances in this domain, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) is studying how technology can help people live at home while they age.
A diverse citizenry is one of our Nation’s greatest assets. Communities and populations across the spectrum of ages contribute unique skills, perspectives, and cultures that shape our society. Ensuring that Americans of all ages, including older Americans, are equipped to thrive and contribute is a key responsibility not just of the Federal Government, but also the private sector, philanthropists, colleges and universities, professional societies, non-governmental organizations, and state, local, and tribal governments.
That’s why the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Domestic Policy Council are seeking individual input from a broad range of stakeholders about new or expanded initiatives involving science and technology that can help improve the quality of life for older Americans.
These activities might include:
- Expanded university and industry research and development to address challenges associated with aging
- Educational programs that help designers create “person-centered” products and services for older Americans
- Efforts to promote an “innovation ecosystem” for older Americans, which might involve accelerators, incubators, well-designed incentive prizes, and mechanisms for researchers and entrepreneurs to get rapid feedback on their proposed solutions
- The identification of one or more Grand Challenges around aging – ambitious but achievable goals that would significantly improve the health, independence, and quality of life for older Americans.
Do the activities of your organization align with this call to action to harness science, technology, and innovation to help and empower older Americans? Click here and tell us about your new and expanded activities by May 22, 2015.
Dr. John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Co-Chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Cecilia Muñoz is Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council.
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