Celebrating Older Americans Month: Leveraging Technology to Meet Healthcare Needs for Older Adults

This May we celebrate Older Americans Month. The theme this year provided by the Administration for Community Living is “Powered by Connection” – emphasizing the positive effect that meaningful connections have on the physical and social wellness of our older Americans. This is a theme that ties neatly into the positive impact that telehealth and other remote communications technologies can have the health of our older population.

As our population ages, the demand for healthcare services among older adults continues to rise. According to the CDC, nearly a quarter of adults over 65 are considered to be in either “fair” or “poor” health. These people may require frequent care to improve their health – however, traditional healthcare delivery methods may not always meet the unique needs of this demographic. Telehealth provides a unique opportunity to connect older adults with care as long as the challenges that may arise are addressed and dealt with.

Seizing the Opportunities

One of the primary benefits of telehealth for seniors is improved accessibility to healthcare services. Many older adults face mobility issues or live in remote areas where accessing traditional healthcare facilities can be challenging. Studies have shownthat adults over 65 in rural locations frequently struggle with reliable transport. Telehealth eliminates these barriers by allowing seniors to consult with healthcare providers from the comfort of their own homes. Whether it’s a routine check-up, medication management, or chronic disease monitoring, telehealth enables older adults to receive timely care without the need for travel.

Telehealth also enables remote patient monitoring (RPM), allowing healthcare providers to track vital signs, medication adherence, and disease progression from a distance. Adults over 65 are the demographic most likely to have complex health needs, which means that they disproportionately stand to benefit from greater use of RPM. Being proactive when approach to healthcare management can lead to early detection of health issues and timely interventions, ultimately improving older Americans’ quality of life and reducing hospitalizations.

While not considered as often as physical health, mental health and social wellness are also vitally important to the well-being of seniors. Those with strong social networks are shown to live longer, healthier lives than those without. Older adults may face obstacles when socializing, such as a lack of reliable transport or, in some cases, increased risk from common illnesses. Connecting with their social circles and families via telecommunication technology can provide a path for older adults to maintain a healthy social life.  

Meeting the Challenges 

Telehealth provides many potential opportunities for our aging population, but these benefits are only accessible if the barriers that exist are acknowledged and addressed. One of the most significant potential barriers is lower technology literacy among older adults. Virtually all adults under 65 reported to regularly using the internet – that percentage dropped to just 75% among those over 65. This is compounded by the fact that many older adults lack access to the technology needed to receive telehealth care. Those who are over 65 are much less likely to own a smartphone, tablet, or computer or to have reliable access to broadband.

However, the gap between older adults and younger cohorts has been lessening over time. In the last decade, the percentage of seniors who regularly use remote communications technology has steeply risen. Some older adults will likely need continued support and encouragement to engage with technology, but may others seem ready to embrace using remote communications technology for themselves.

Telehealth plays a vital role in addressing the healthcare needs of the aging population. By improving accessibility, enhancing convenience, enabling remote monitoring, combating social isolation, and promoting tech literacy, telehealth offers seniors a path to better health outcomes and a higher quality of life. As we continue to embrace telehealth innovations, we can work deliberately to ensure that older adults are not left behind but are instead empowered to thrive in the digital age.

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