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Technology Aids Our Independence

Promising new health devices can help us age in place

AARP President Jeannine English,

Eli Meir Kaplan

Jeannine English, former AARP president.

Almost all of us who are 50-plus share one important desire: We want to be able to live independently, in our own homes and communities, as long as we possibly can — and we don't want to be a burden to our families.

We also share a fear that some awful thing we can't control — a bad fall, a chronic illness — will force us into institutionalized care.

Technology can be our friend here. New health technology can help many of us live at home for as long as we choose. Some of this is in the works, and some is on the market. All of it is thrilling.

Some examples of devices in various stages of development:

  • "Smart" bandages with a wireless medical sensor that uses nanotechnology to take dozens of readings (heart rate, temperature, respiration rate, for example), display them on a mobile phone or the Internet and call your doctor when it senses a problem.
  • Contact lenses that measure glucose levels, deliver drugs and detect cancer.
  • Pills that contain a sensor activated by stomach acid to take readings (such as pH or activity level) and send the data to a skin patch receiver, which relays it to a physician or caregiver.

As we age, devices like these mean we can get the support we need to take medication properly or receive early warnings of health problems without having to leave home.

Family caregivers can monitor and manage their loved ones' well-being — even from a distance.

Medical practitioners can identify problems and move quickly to treat them, often helping to prevent more serious conditions that land people in the hospital.

In plain English, technology could be health care's Triple Crown, with the potential to ease access to care, raise the quality of care and cut costs.

AARP helps nurture health innovations through the Innovation@50+ initiative, sparking entrepreneurial activity to develop products and services tailored to meet the wants and needs of people 50-plus. Learn more at aarp.org/innovation50plus.

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