2015 White House Conference on Aging

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Nora Super and others at Listening Sessions 2014

28. April 2015 14:09
by Cecilia Muñoz

Improving the Lives of Older Americans Through Science and Technology

28. April 2015 14:09 by Cecilia Muñoz | 11 Comments

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. 

Thank you for your interest in commenting on this blog. At this time, we are no longer accepting comments. If you are still interested in sharing your thoughts, please e-mail them to info@whaging.gov

Comments (11) -

In response to your question, Do the activities of your organization align with this call to action to harness science, technology, and innovation to help and empower older Americans?

I coordinate the services and programs for Seniors, the Elderberries, at the John Igo Branch Library.  We have monthly programs that range the gamut of topics and activities, from travel, exercise, nature, technology to cultural and historic.

Programs have included an Interior Designer speaking on "Aging in Place",  an orthopedic doctor on hip/knee replacements,  WellMed on healthy eating and exercise, and Senior Olympics games day in conjunction with The Texas Seniors Games held in San Antonio each year.  An annual "Maintain the Brain" activities followed by an ice cream social has often found the oldest seniors (one a 99-year old) winning.  

We also have series of programs, including a Health Information series presented by the UT Health Science Center Nursing School,  AARP TEK workshops on using I-Pads, Ballroom dancing and memoir-writing classes.  We also celebrate Older Americans Month in May with various activities, as well as Grandparents' Day in September each year.  An annual Thanksgiving Potluck luncheon recognizes seniors for their volunteer service.

A monthly newsletter, The Elderberry Vine, informs seniors of local, state, and national activities for senior citizens, such as the Joint City/County Commission for Elderly Affairs, Senior Day at the Capitol, and the White House Conference on Aging.  

I recently had an horrific experience with my family members being abused in nursing homes, by nursing assistants.(Certified Nursing Assistants) The abuse, apparently deliberate and definitely physically injurious, started after I complained of thefts of some of my family members' clothing. I was unable to stop the abuse, no matter what steps I took. How would it be possible to institute a requirement that nursing home staff be required to wear body cameras?

I would hope that we can use technology to monitor and provide educational information based on preventing and managing seniors' health care. I think we'll see increasing use of technology to address improvements in resources so seniors can stay healthy and neurologically functional.

Hi there - it looks like the "click here" hyperlink at the bottom is not working. Could you please direct me to the submission page? Many thanks!

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. The link has been fixed.

For 30 years I have worked in the home health care industry.  I invented Electronic Visit Verification in 1996.  Over the years, I have found uses for this tool that keep people out of the hospital and nursing home.  It allows them to stay in their homes longer and help assure the entire team around them to catch issues early before they escalate turning into what could have been an avoidable crisis.

There is a bit of a digital divide that exists despite what appears to be an overwhelming adoption of "technology." High tech gadgets have their place.  Engaging the older community sometimes means stepping back into a space of lower tech.  This may be a turn-off to some, but it is essential to understand the value of high touch.  

I allow anyone working with the senior (including the senior themselves) to electronically document their self-care.  This reporting tool becomes an invaluable part of the care and collaboration.  It is a record for all of the caregivers whether paid or volunteer and the healthcare team to communicate a status-check.

Device agnostic technology solutions are essential for seniors and the disabled because it promotes broader adoption by reducing barriers and keeps the costs low.  Ease of use is necessary for this population.

I am most interested in reverse mortgage.  I always looked at this as a financial tool - which I now desperately need.  However;  in recent years due to the economy, real estate, etc. the laws have made it nearly impossible.  I live in a Chicago hi rise & wish to remain here due to social, cultural, etc that is offered by the city.  

It is a Mies bldg - I have a studio condo - but it is not FHA.  Altho it more than adequately fulfills FHA guidelines, I can't get a Reverse due to this.  My bills & taxes are so low that if I move I'd have to pay as much so I'm caught between a rock/hard place.  My monthly assessments & real estate taxes would be easy, but due to laws this is not available to me.  

I dread the thought of moving, but currently it seems my only option.    Joan P

Great article on an important topic. As a participant in two digital health incubators and funds (Startup Health, Rock Health) and entrepreneur in the aging space over the past 4 years, there are growing supports in our innovation ecosystem to support aging. The evolution of aging-specific incubators such at Aging 2.0 Academy is another exciting development that further focuses innovation efforts on aging. But a MAJOR challenge we have with innovation incubation in aging and digital health in general is How do we measure success of these efforts? The most common metric of success is investment dollars raised. What about measuring impact? What about quantifying the extent to which a technology or incubator or initiative achieves the Triple Aim? What about measuring the extent to which innovation efforts focus on the most vulnerable rather than those with highest purchasing power to purchase an app. Our space is exciting and evolving, but there needs to be leadership at a higher level (foundations, non-profit quality measurement organizations, etc). to take the lead on establishing criteria for high quality digital health (emphasis on HEALTH).  


Two points new technologies will bring down the costs and increase care

1) Our new tech will help do that
2) Your click through to tell people about new tech is not activtated. See below

"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."

Would be great to tell you about what we are doing



Unfortunately, the 'click here' option on the blog was not functional, but I do hope this comments reaches authors Holdren and Munoz.  I watched a large portion of yesterday's conference live and while many spoke of the need for reform, research and effective programing to assist older Americans,  I did not hear any discussion of developing programs which are devised based on the current clinical research which supports the use of exercise programming to manage chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and osteoarthritis  and a preventative regimen to delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer's Disease and other dementia. As a gerontologist and medical exercise specialist, I develop individualized and group programs to establish a wellness regimen specifically designed for those who have multiple comorbidities and have lost a significant degree of function in their lives. With a multi-focal program which includes exercise, nutritional guidance, psychosocial support, a participant can restore his or her ability to be independent, reduce medications, stay out of a nursing home and thereby lessen the burden on the healthcare system at large.  Yet, these comprehensive services are not covered by Medicare or commercial insurance.  Until we can identify new methodologies or pharmaceuticals which are proven to delay dementia and resolve functional ability, the system should support services which can make a difference today.  There is a tsunami approaching: let's turn the tide by offering an evidence-based solution of programs focused on exercise, nutrition, lifestyle modification and community support.

Thank you!

RE: Empowering older adults to live independently

There is high interest in the Age Proofing a Home channel on our website www.diyornot.com which features improvement ideas and costs to help older adults live independently at home. While the demographics of the site are 35-45 year old homeowners, we believe they are adult children helping their parents stay at home and in control of their lives by making their parents’ homes more accessible with lighting upgrades, modifications to bathrooms and more comfortable living conditions throughout the house.  

Do It Yourself Or Not is the online edition of the weekly column of the same name syndicated by Tribune Content Agency created by Gene and Katie Hamilton, St. Michaels, MD.

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