Technology is a wonderful thing…for some people, that is. Electronic medical records, the Internet and e-mail, smart phones and health apps, automated voicemail, and social media inundate our lives. Doctors and their patients have either leaped forward or been dragged kicking and screaming into this age of high paced, rapidly changing technology. Prominent in today’s health literature are articles authored by young technology enthusiasts who promote hi-tech devices and apps that encourage doctors and their patients to relate in a way that’s different than what they’re accustomed to – not in person, not face-to-face, but rather electronically, with promises of benefits that have yet to be proven. Whether we like it or not, we’re all part of this, and maybe some good will even come of it, eventually.
But there’s an emptiness in these discussions about technology, because something is missing. You know what it is? It’s the elderly. When reading the literature and all the hype and excitement, I can’t help asking myself, “But what about the elderly?” What about these wonderful, stubborn, cantankerous, and often fragile yet essential creatures who just can’t keep up with these advancements? I’ll tell you what’s become of them regarding their healthcare: they’ve been left behind…forgotten. The nice young people who invent and promote all this wonderful technology and new ways of communicating have done so primarily for the benefit of other younger people. The elderly, the very people who are the highest consumers of our healthcare dollars, are the least able to access these marvelous inventions. They have literally been forgotten! The figures below illustrate this paradox.
They show that as we age, our healthcare spending rises dramatically (Figure 1), but we have less access to the technology that may potentially benefit us (Figure 2)! Most of the elderly simply don’t or can’t use computers or smart phones and could care less about text messages, Twitter, Facebook, and You Tube.
So, what are we to do for the elderly, the demographic that has the most need with the highest number of chronic medical conditions and that by 2030 will comprise 20% of our population? Where do we go from here?
Part 2 of this 3 part series offers some ideas and describes what works for the elderly and what doesn’t. Finally, in part 3 you’ll discover how and where WE can make a difference. Hint…the old and the new will come together.