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Smarter Aging: The Importance of Health Tech Planning

In today’s tech-savvy world, weaving Health Tech Planning into the fabric of care for older adults is essential.

As we tackle the complexities of caring for an aging population, the task of mapping out future healthcare strategies becomes increasingly important. It’s no secret that considerations like financial security, suitable living environments, and accessible medical services often dominate these discussions. Yet, there’s a pivotal piece of the puzzle that warrants more attention: the role technology plays in supporting healthy aging.

Think about it: the presence (or absence) of technology and how effectively it’s used can significantly shape the aging experience. Whether it’s improving home safety, facilitating communication with loved ones, or streamlining access to healthcare and social services, technology’s role is undeniable.  Recognizing and harnessing its full potential to support healthy aging is overdue. It’s time to prioritize “Health Tech Planning” as a key component of our approach to care.

What is Health Tech Planning?

At its core, Health Tech Planning is about staying one step ahead. It’s about anticipating the healthcare needs of individuals as they age and pinpointing the tech solutions that can best meet their evolving needs. This approach is key to empowering older adults and helping them maintain dignity, independence, and a better quality of life.

Far too often, technology is introduced reactively. It’s usually not until an older individual encounters a mobility challenge, faces a health scare, or struggles with mental health issues following a significant life event, like the loss of a spouse, do healthcare providers or family members consider tech solutions. However, treating technology as a band-aid solution underestimates its vast potential to preemptively improve the well-being of our loved ones and those in our care.  

Health Tech Planning should be recognized not merely as a strategy for managing crises but as one that vastly improves the quality of life for older adults. Whether it’s through devices that help support nutrition and exercise, apps that inspire new passions, or digital platforms that foster connections, the scope of technology to beneficially influence the aging journey is immense.

It’s time to lean into a more proactive approach. By weaving Health Tech Planning into every area of healthcare, we are shifting from simply tackling problems as they arise to embracing a holistic, preventative strategy. This change will make a real difference in the lives of older adults, helping them stay healthier and happier, long before any serious health issues emerge. 

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Health Tech Planning is not about specific devices

Technology is always evolving. Who knows what kind of devices will be around in 10-years? That’s why Health Tech Planning isn’t about picking specific gadgets older adults might need down the line. Instead, it’s about integrating technology into the overall plan for happier, healthier, and safer aging. 

It’s also time to dispel the misconception surrounding “Health Tech.” The term doesn’t exclusively refer to things like complex biometric sensors or smart monitors. Instead, “Health Tech” should cover any tech solutions that meet the health-related needs of an individual. From engaging in virtual exercise classes that promote physical activity, utilizing ridesharing apps for easier access to healthcare appointments, to subscribing to meal delivery services ensuring nutritional needs are met—Health Tech Planning is about leveraging simple, yet effective technological interventions to significantly enhance care.

Tips for creating a Health Tech Plan

Creating a Health Tech Plan is about more than just keeping up with the latest gadgets, it’s about thoughtfully incorporating technology into the daily lives and care of older adults. It’s important to remember that not all technology serves the same purpose. As people age, their health requirements and preferences will change.

Here are some tips for putting for crafting a Health Tech Plan, especially for older adults:

1. Visualize the future together

Start discussions with older adults about their vision for the future. Encourage them to think about where and how they want to live as they age, what kind of support they might need, and what hobbies or activities they hope to pursue. This process is helpful for identifying the role technology can play in realizing their goals.

Ask questions like: 

  • How do you picture your living situation in the future? At home with family, within a senior community, or in a different setting?
  • Do you anticipate staying close to your loved ones, or might there be some distance between you?
  • Are there any new hobbies or adventures you’re interested in exploring?
  • What does an ideal day look like for you in terms of leisure and activities?

2.  Assess your changing healthcare needs

Recognize that as older adults reach certain milestones, their healthcare requirements will change, and consequently, so will their technology needs. Work together with them to identify and prepare for these shifts. 

Consider discussing: 

  • The progression of any current health conditions and the possibility of new health or mobility challenges arising.
  • Changes in their lifestyle, health care needs, and the way they interact socially. 
  • Review their living situation to identify any aspects that might become hurdles. Is there a need to adjust their living space to better accommodate their evolving needs? 

This careful assessment is key to proactively identifying and implementing technology solutions that address these changes head-on.

3. Identify potential health tech solutions

Explore the wide range of technology options available, from smart home devices that enhance safety and independence to telehealth services that make healthcare more accessible. Consider wearables and other devices that can help monitor health conditions in real-time as well as devices that help patients remember and schedule appointments, take medications, and facilitate daily tasks. The aim is to align these technology solutions with the unique needs and preferences of older adults. 

Also, don’t forget to assess the tech they already have in their homes.  Remember, Health Tech Planning isn’t just about choosing the latest gadgets. It’s about grasping how the relationship between older adults and technology can change over time and how various devices, some of which they may already own, can fulfill different roles throughout their lives.

Consider the voice assistant as an example. Initially, it’s a great tool for helping with everyday tasks like making shopping lists or playing music. However, its usefulness can grow significantly—it can transform into a health management tool, reminding users to take medication or alerting them to upcoming medical appointments. It can act as a safety monitor, detecting falls and connecting users to emergency services. This transition highlights how a single device, one they may already be comfortable using, can evolve to fulfill a range of crucial roles, adapting alongside the changing needs of an individual as they age.

4. Foster tech literacy among older adults 

Tech literacy is essential for effective Health Tech Planning. After all, technology is only effective if it’s being used. Building even a foundational level of tech literacy can greatly boost confidence in engaging with health technology and embracing innovations. For healthcare professionals and caregivers, it’s crucial to support older adults in becoming more tech-savvy, which not only reduces the workload on staff but also makes care processes more efficient (and may even reduce the number of unnecessary ER visits).  In an era where digital tools are becoming integral to daily living, ensuring older adults are comfortable with technology is key to empowering them to manage their health more independently.

To foster tech literacy, encourage older adults to:

  • Engage with technology in their everyday environments, like using self-service kiosks at medical offices or automated store checkouts. This can help make the technology less intimidating.
  • Explore the use of telehealth for more regular interactions with healthcare providers, growing their familiarity and comfort with these virtual services.
  • View learning technology as an ongoing process, staying curious and open to new digital skills.
  • Take advantage of educational opportunities, such as free online courses or workshops at local Senior Centers, aimed at improving tech skills.
  • Ask for assistance or seek advice from tech experts, which can help them advance more quickly in their tech literacy journey.

5.  Planning financially for health tech needs 

Incorporating technology into healthcare planning isn’t only about the tech itself. We cannot overlook the financial side of things. Just like with any other healthcare financial planning, technology should be a part of that discussion. Helping older adults navigate the costs associated with technology — from purchasing devices to handling ongoing subscription fees — is a key part of the process. Identifying financial aid and community resources that can help offset tech expenses is equally important.

Here are a few strategies to assist older adults in financially preparing for their health tech needs:

  • Advise they set aside a specific portion of their budget for technology and technology-related expenses, ensuring they cover both device purchases and any maintenance or ongoing costs.
  • Point them to funding options or financial assistance that can alleviate the burden of these expenses. Encourage discussions with their healthcare providers and/or insurance companies to identify any tech-related coverage benefits.
  • Recommend free or low-cost tech resources available. Many community organizations, including churches, libraries, and senior centers, often provide access to valuable technology resources or training programs.

 6.  Conduct regular reviews

Health Tech Planning is not a “set it and forget it” approach. It’s an ongoing journey that requires regular check-ins, especially after significant life events, aging milestones, or at the very least, once a year. Involving family members, caregivers, and healthcare professionals in these reviews is crucial, as their unique perspectives and insights greatly contribute to the planning process.

Tips on how to support and guide this process:

  • Encourage older adults and their support networks to frequently review and adjust their technology needs and goals, especially as they move through different phases of their lives.
  • Stay informed about the latest technological advancements that have the potential to enhance care and discuss these options with older adults and their families.
  • Promote ongoing dialogue among older adults, their families, and healthcare teams to ensure there’s a shared understanding and agreement on the health tech strategies and broader healthcare plans.

Advocating for Health Tech Planning

In today’s tech-savvy world, weaving Health Tech Planning into the fabric of care for older adults is as essential as any traditional prep work we do for aging. It’s more than just getting comfortable with the latest gadgets,  it’s about strategically using these innovations to elevate the care we provide. Understanding how deeply technology can influence health and overall well-being is key. We must recognize technology’s transformative potential and proactively integrate it into the lives of older adults, enabling them to thrive in their later years.  

Photo: EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER, Getty Images

Vida Roozen is the Chief Operating Officer at The Smarter Service, a technology concierge provider specializing in services for older adults and senior living communities. She has a 23-year career in consumer technology and the home appliance sector. Before joining The Smarter Service, she held Senior Vice President positions at BDS Solutions, a sales and marketing solutions provider, and at Creative Channel Services, a strategic retail marketing company. Notably, she also led Omnicom’s Women’s Leadership chapter for California. Vida's decision to join The Smarter Service was deeply personal, fueled by experiences supporting aging parents with technology challenges. In her role, she saw a clear market gap and seized the opportunity not only to assist individuals but also to revolutionize the understanding of older adults within the tech and healthcare industries.

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