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Exploring Human Potential

The 2005 White House Conference on Aging: Ten Years Later

Posted on | January 12, 2015 | 4 Comments

ph-smiling-couple-3202015 White House CoA

Mike Magee, MD

We are rapidly approaching a 2015 White House Conference on Aging. It will mark the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, and the 80th anniversary of the Social Security Act. (1) A decade ago, in preparation for the 2005 event(2), and as a commissioner on the National Commission on Quality Long Term Care, I chaired the Commission’s technology subcommittee, and some months later wrote a summary. As is often the case, it can take a decade for events to catch up with vision. But for planners of the 2015 meeting, the summary below provides a useful framework for discussion.

“Traditionally, the area of greatest interest had been in the application of technology for the management of disease and disability to assist older Americans in their ability ‘to age in place.'(3) But as the Conference approached, and an analysis of aging Boomers with high functionality and high expectations came front and center, the vision expanded and raised the question, ‘How might technology extend independence, productivity and quality of life for our nation’s oldest citizens?'(4) Since the Conference, and as part of the work of the National Commission for Quality in Long-Term Care, the exploration has both broadened and sharpened its focus.(5) The question today is ‘How might technology be applied to re-engineer homes for health and assure maximum connectivity to support aging citizens as part of the multigenerational family, the community and a preventive oriented health delivery system?’

This insight, that the technology should not be limited only to fourth and fifth generation Americans, but rather, in an integral way, be applied to assist as well the three generations below them – their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren – reinforces the concept of technology applications as both assistive and transformational. In supporting our most senior citizens in home design, care team connectivity, mobility, cognition, entertainment, learning and employment, might we reorient our support for citizens and their families around a more home centered approach that reinforces independence, productivity, connectivity and efficient application of limited resources?

Such a vision focuses on healthy bodies and health minds. It assists memory as well as mobility. It harnesses software and hardware to not only improve individual quality of life, but to also advantage family, community and societal goals. For example, extending workplace involvement can be extraordinarily beneficial to the overall health of an elder citizen. Coincidentally, harnessing the knowledge, skills and experience of these citizens can positively impact the success of a community and all of its citizens.(6)

Independence also implies responsibility centered on individuals and their networks of support including family, friends and caring professionals. As citizens we have differing capabilities and needs, and these change as we age. We must help each other. But to do so efficiently, we must advantage virtual connectivity and a full range of technologic applications that unlock our fullest individual and collective human potential.(7)

The revolutionary strength of modern information and scientific technologies is that ‘they ignore geography.’ In so doing they allow us to reorient and connect beyond the limits of a range of barriers whether they be physical, social, financial or political. The danger is not in over-reaching but in under-reaching. Our vision must be sufficiently forward looking and expansive to challenge technology innovators. Where are the ‘killer applications’ that would allow lifespan planning to move us ahead of the disease curve? How can we target technologic advances in health to first reach our citizens most at risk? How do we, in powering the health technology revolution, broaden our social contract to include universal health insurance? How do we unite the technology, entertainment, and financial sectors (previously locked out of the health care space) with the traditional health care power players, and incentivize them to work together to create a truly preventive and holistic health delivery system that is equitable, just, efficient, and uniformly reliable? How can each citizen play a role in ongoing research and innovation, and help define lifelong learning and behavioral modification as part of good citizenship? What can corporate America do to advance health in the broadest sense of the word, and in ‘doing good,’ do well financially, serving Main Street as it serves Wall Street?

Individuals, families, corporations, universities, health caregivers, and government entities all have a role to play. Technologies can enable, operate, connect, instruct and assist. But to do so logically and efficiently they must conform to a vision that is both generalizable and customizable. Technology offers the flexibility and fluidity to pursue health, independence, mobility, financial security, social engagement and cognition in hundreds of thousands of uniquely different environments simultaneously, while also pursuing a single unified and collectively committed vision for our nation.(8)

The vision for technology must be integrated into a broader and more transformational quality of life model. IT must equally serve 4th and 5th generation Americans as it addresses the needs of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation Americans. It must address variability of services, and be broadly inclusive, and universal in coverage. It is not so much about Aging as it is about Living, and doing so to our fullest human extent. Technology has the power to assist us in healing, providing health and keeping our nation and global family whole. But it’s capacity to delivery on this promise is dependent on a vision for health that is both broad and inclusive.”

The 2015 White Conference on Aging offers a unique opportunity to explore a range of issues that impact elder Americans. But to “heal” them, we must create a health care system that provides “health” while keeping the multi-generational family “whole”. If we can do all that, that would be a “holy” thing.

For Health Commentary I’m Mike Magee.

References:

  1. 2015 White House Conference on Aging.http://whitehouseconferenceonaging.gov/about/index.html
  2. Office of Technology Policy of the Commerce Department’s Technology Administration, “Technology and Innovation in an Emerging Senior Boomer Marketplace.” 11 December 2005,http://www.civicengagement.org/agingsociety/WHCOA_generalmaterials.htm
  3. Mann, WL. Editor. Smart Technology for Aging, Disability, and Independence: the State of Science. Wiley Interscience, July 2005.
  4. Pew, RW and Van Hemel, SB. Editors. Technology for Adaptive Aging. Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences and Education. National Research Council of the National Academies of Science.2004, http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10857&page=1, (20 September 2006)
  5. National Commission on Quality of Long-Term Care.http://www.newschool.edu/ltcc/reports.html
  6. Boehm, EW. “Healthcare Unbound Meets the Digital Home.” Healthcare Unbound 2005 Meeting. Boston, MA.http://www.tcbi.org/files/brochures/TBCI_HU2005_Brochure.pdf
  7. “America’s Aging Workforce Posing New Opportunities and Challenges for Companies to Utilize Mature Employees.” Conference Board. 19 September 2005,http://www.agingworkforcenews.com/2005_09_01_archive.html
  8. Dishman, E. Inventing Wellness Systems for Aging in Place. Computer. 2004;37:34-41.

Comments

4 Responses to “The 2005 White House Conference on Aging: Ten Years Later”

  1. Cardiologist in Madhapur
    January 17th, 2015 @ 1:27 am

    nice post mike, very informational content thankyou for such content

  2. Mike Magee
    January 17th, 2015 @ 9:43 am

    Thank you, Michael!

  3. innovatemedicalcenter
    January 20th, 2015 @ 5:22 am

    hey mike,
    Glad to see that you shared information here. That was a
    resource I was unaware of so thank you for the useful and relevant
    information. Great article.
    Innovate Medical Center

  4. Mike Magee
    January 20th, 2015 @ 9:51 am

    Our pleasure!

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