Baby boomers embrace technology as much as younger users

Older adults could especially benefit from the integration of technology into health care

By , IDG News Service |  

Baby boomers adopt tablets, wearable devices and other technologies just as energetically as younger users, according to participants at the Booming Tech forum, which focused on technology use of that generation.

Those born between 1946 and 1964, "are not a generation new to technology," said Joseph Coughlin, director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Automated teller machines and cellphones, among other technologies, were developed during their lifetimes, so they have grown to expect that technology will improve their lives, he said at the event Thursday in Boston.

"This notion that older adults don't love technology -- that's not on older adults, that's bad technology," he said.

Plus, this demographic, which makes up the majority of the U.S. population, can afford to spend money on tablets, cars with onboard computers and wearable devices.

Baby boomers, who are between 50 and 68 years old, expect technology to move into predictive analytics, offer enjoyment and help them live better lives while connecting with friends, Coughlin said.

"What we want is fun," he said, not another wearable device with a sensor "that says old guy walking." Instead, they may want to use Microsoft's Kinect motion and gesture technology to work out virtually with friends, a project his team worked on with senior citizens centers. "

Applying technology to medical care will blur the lines between being a patient and being a consumer, and could yield benefits that improve baby boomers' health, said speakers at a separate health IT discussion panel. The challenge, though, lies with incorporating IT into a complex medical care system that includes health insurance companies and, increasingly, technology vendors.

"I don't see how we can provide better care without using technology," said Michael Cantor, chief medical officer of the New England Quality Care Alliance, a network of about 1,800 doctors in Massachusetts that is affiliated with Tufts Medical Center.

The complexities of the health-care system, including doctors, insurance companies and increasingly electronic-health-record vendors, mean the industry changes slowly.

"We have the technology," Cantor said. "The whole system isn't incentivized to use this technology." He noted that insurance companies, for example, do not reimburse doctors for telemedicine.

Care providers view telemedicine as a way to help control medical costs and provide care, especially to baby boomers, some of whom have chronic conditions that require constant monitoring.

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