President's Council recommends 'technology for graceful aging'

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Internet access, fraud and abuse protection, cognitive training products and safety-related monitoring technology all are addressed in recommendations in a new report (PDF) from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, a group of scientists and engineers who directly advise the president.

The report, released in March, is the second of two on the topic of “technology for graceful aging,” as council members phrase it. The first was an October report on technologies for hearing assistance.

Some of the recommendations in the latest report:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services should support a private/public council to advise on ways to advance technology to improve the quality of life for older adults.
  • The HHS Administration for Community Living and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration at the Department of Commerce should create a national plan to ensure that all older adults have broadband Internet access.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology, in collaboration with the private sector, should develop guidelines for marketing and instructional materials to ensure understanding of the operational requirements, benefits and risks of various monitoring technologies for frail and vulnerable older adults.
  • The National Institutes of Health, HHS Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, the National Science Foundation, the Veterans Health Administration, the Department of Defense and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency should support research including robotics, advanced mobility technologies, communications technology with special emphasis on emergency situations, cognitive training and home monitoring.
  • The Federal Trade Commission should continue to enforce regulatory review and guidelines for commercial cognitive training products. (This recommendation follows the January agreement in which Lumosity said it would pay $2 million to settle deceptive advertising charges.)

“Focusing on three primary challenges common with aging — social connectivity and emotional health, cognitive ability and physical ability — PCAST made recommendations intended to advance the use of technologies that would have great potential for improving people's lives,” Christine Cassel and Ed Penhoet, PCAST members and co-chairs of its Working Group on Independence, Technology and Connection in Older Age, wrote in a recent blog post.

HUD program

One recommendation in the report is being realized in part through a pilot program with Comcast and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's ConnectHome initiative to reduce the “digital divide” for public housing residents, including senior citizens, HUD tells McKnight's Senior Living. Effective March 24, eligibility for Comcast's high-speed Internet adoption program, called Internet Essentials, was extended to public housing residents in Miami-Dade County in Florida and the cities of Nashville, TN, Philadelphia and Seattle.

“Comcast's decision to join the ConnectHome initiative boosts our continued efforts to close the digital divide,” HUD Secretary Julián Castro said. “Through their commitment and all of our committed stakeholders, public and private, we're leveling the playing field for public housing residents across the nation and opening doors to prosperity that otherwise would remain closed.”

The Internet Essentials program provides high-speed Internet service for $9.95 a month plus tax, the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for less than $150 and options to access free digital literacy training in print, online and in-person. The company also is specifically testing its Internet Essentials program for low-income older adults living in Boston, Palm Beach County in Florida, San Francisco and Seattle.

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