5 ways tech will address the challenges of an ageing population

The world is getting old. Average ages are rising fast across the globe and - although more prevalent in developed nations - every nation on the planet will one day face the challenges of an ageing population.

While people living longer is of course a good thing, it comes with its own, unique set of challenges. The older we get, the more susceptible to disease we are. Our cognitive ability decreases, and often we need specialised care.

But the next decade will bring seismic change: advancements in technology and data will help people enjoy longer, happier lives in their older age.

Big data & AI helping disease detection

One of the best ways to fight a disease is to start fighting it early. Much of the time and resources spent on medical care, especially for the elderly, comes from reactive care. With the help of big data and AI learning, it is becoming easier and easier to identify and tackle illnesses.

Public datasets available to companies are growing at an exponential rate, which can all be fed to developing medical AI to create fundamental change in medicine and healthcare. Algorithms can sift through the vast amounts of data we create to spot subtle changes in appearance and habit, allowing them to predict possible health conditions for groups and individuals.

Huge progress in this field has already been seen in identifying cardiovascular risk. AI has been able to predict the risk of heart attack and other heart problems more accurately than traditional scales. By detecting disease early, more proactive care can be prescribed before the need for treatments such as surgery, which pose higher risk for older adults.

Improving access to care

Already a rapidly advancing industry, remote healthcare adoption and development has been greatly accelerated by the demands of the pandemic. In Saudi Arabia alone, 86% of people have now accessed some form of telehealth, with those taking online doctor consultations rising steeply from 1.56% pre-pandemic to 3.51% in 2022. Online healthcare breaks down barriers the public faces when it comes to receiving good healthcare.

From discussing health issues on the phone, to sending images of ailments, to direct video calls with professionals, tech continues to enable advances in healthcare. This is especially important for an ageing population, many of whom may struggle to travel long distances to hospitals and healthcare centres for simple check-ups.

Supporting cognitive function

Previously seen as a gaming or metaverse technology, recent studies have shown the efficacy of Virtual Reality (VR) in developing and training cognitive function in older adults.

Being easily tailored to the individual and having the ability to simulate situations and environments that may be risky in reality, VR also shows promise of helping stroke victims regain control of their body.

Real-world crossing the street can be convincingly simulated, allowing those in recovery from stroke to practice in the safety of their home before doing it for real. As well as this, through isolating different aspects of mobility VR can more effectively aid people in mobility training, tailoring the number of stimuli and the speed at which they are tackled to the individual.

In the real world, things tend to come at you all at once, but in VR, the elderly and recovering patients can tackle things one at a time, helping them train skills faster and gain confidence.

Tech enabled care providers

Providing care to the elderly can be difficult and stressful, and many in the sector find they are understaffed and under-equipped for the job. Developments in technology can, though, alleviate some of these issues, such as the Cera Care virtual assistant.

Carers can’t be everywhere at once, nor can they know everything about every client. This virtual assistant provides advice and information to carers and is able to tailor its advice based on its interactions with other clients.

This means the more Cera Care is used, the more helpful it is, and the less work carers need to do in order to effectively look after their clients.

Supporting social interaction

Ageing can often be lonely, and it is scientifically proven that a lack of social connections negatively affect our mental health. Some studies even suggest that prolonged isolation can be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Much of the technology we know and use today was built with the purpose of connecting people. Now it is playing an increasingly vital role in connecting the world’s ageing population not only with family, but with new people online.

A possible silver-lining of the pandemic is the percentage of our older generation who are comfortable with technology, rising to 44% of those 50 and older post- pandemic. Platforms like Zoom have greatly improved the ability of seniors to connect, and will serve a pivotal role in connecting our ageing population in the future.