super-ageing society calls for smart technologies

The super-ageing society calls for smart technology options

Japan is aging fast. In a country that is home to a record 80,000 centenarians, about 29% of the population is 65 or older, and by 2036 elderly people will represent a third of the population. The super-ageing society is not a Japan-only issue, of course.

Trends in Europe are not too far behind Japan. In the UK, there are now more people aged 65 and over in England and Wales than children aged under 15. Senior people have surged by 20% over the past decade. In the US, about 10,000 people daily turn 65 and the percentage of people over the age of 85 is predicted to double to 14 million by 2040, in part because Americans are living longer. In 2050, 84 million elderly people will live in America.

Who Will Care for America’s Elderly?”, titles Though question, particularly when the labor shortage gripping US workforce across industries is felt most acutely in healthcare: 400,000 nursing home and assisted living staff quit their jobs since January 2020 due to pandemic exhaustion, low salaries and limited career opportunities.

The debate around AgeTech – technology designed to meet the needs of older adults and those who care for them – turns up and intersects the growing focus on P4 medicine, now P5, as a predictive, personalized, preventive, participatory and precision discipline. This patient-centered care approach leverages latest digital and sensor-based technologies, artificial intelligence and robotics to support diagnosis, treatment and assistance.

Bed sensor systems are increasingly used in hospitals, clinics, nursing, and care houses: they do not replace nursing staff but can ease the burden on personnel and make some routine tasks quicker and simpler, with benefits for patients too. By integrating high-precision sensors to measure some vital parameters and referential body weight, these solutions contribute to the effective monitoring of patients' conditions, save some workload of the nursing staff and spare the recipients' inconvenience.

IoT-based platforms for remote, non-invasive patient monitoring may also be used for seniors and patients who are assisted at home. They may benefit from continued and reliable medical care without leaving their homes and enjoying some independence.

AgeTech and smart technologies are not the silver bullet for the super-ageing society, but they can make longevity somewhat more comfortable and support medical care when needed.

quality healthcare

Quality healthcare for the maturing population

Scientists cannot agree whether the world's population will increase or decrease over the next century. The United Nations predicts there will be 10.9 billion people on the planet by 2100 and the population will continue to grow, but a team of researchers from the University of Washington describes a different scenario.

According to their assumptions, global population is likely to peak well before the end of the century and reach 9.7 billion people in 2064. Then a decline will begin and continue inexorably, so the world will count between 6.3 and 8.8 billion individuals by 2100.

One thing puts them all together: the population is overall maturing, as the proportion of people aged 65 and over has increased significantly in the past two decades. The growing number of older citizens is specifically worrying some regions and countries, including Japan, the US, and Europe.

Eurostat, the EU’s statistical center, says there are now fewer than three adults of working age (20-64) for every over 65 European citizen. This old-age dependency is forecast to rise, considering fertility rates have fallen in most countries. By January 2050 there will be fewer than two working-age adults for each older person.

Of course, this is seriously affecting national economies and governments are urged to meet the higher costs of pensions, social services, and quality healthcare.

What about quality healthcare? It’s first of call a matter of providing adequate physical and medical support to the maturing population. Technology innovations play a big role here - think of wearable devices and AI-based systems for health monitoring and the early detection of diseases, new-generation aids to address hearing loss and sensory decline causing impairment and social isolation, or cognitive systems to maintain brain health and key functioning.

But quality healthcare is also about providing reliable assistance to senior people who live at home or in nursing and care houses, developing affordable solutions for continuous non-invasive monitoring of health conditions, and supporting caregivers and families in their tasks. Personalized, data driven care plans can improve the overall quality of life for elderly people and have the potential to reduce long term medical costs.


Interested in innovative solutions for intelligent care? Read more 

emergency response

Drones deliver defibrillators to patients ahead of ambulances

Every minute counts when dealing with a sudden cardiac arrest. In domestic or out-of-hospital cases, early treatment and a shock from an automated external defibrillator (AED) can improve the chances of survival to 50-70 percent. How can technology support quicker and more effective emergency response?

That was the question a team of researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden wanted to answer through a unique pilot project, using drones to deliver defibrillators to real-life alerts of suspected cardiac arrest.

Researchers partnered with the national emergency operator SOS Alarm, Region Västra Götaland and drone operator Everdrone AB to carry out a four-month study in the cities of Gothenburg and Kungälv in western Sweden. In Summer 2020, the drones took off in response to 12 out of 53 alerts of suspected cardiac arrest in parallel with ambulances. AEDs were successfully delivered by drones in 11 cases (92 percent), and in 7 cases (64 percent) they arrived before the ambulance. The drones traveled a median distance of 3.1 kilometers without causing any disturbances or damage to the surrounding area.

Published by the European Heart Journal, this study confirm drones can be leveraged to transport defibrillators in a safe way and with target precision during real-life emergencies. Researchers noted some enhancements are needed to increase dispatch rate and time benefits. For instance, they are starting a follow-up study to test drones flying at night or with bad weather, and improving the software system for better itinerary management.

Recent guidelines from the European Resuscitation Council include drone-based systems among possible measures to improve emergency response in suspected cardiac arrest cases. Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are increasingly leveraged in healthcare to deliver blood, vaccines, and other medical supplies to rural areas or remote locations, provide relief to victims who need immediate medical attention, facilitate medicine transportation within hospitals or clinics, and even support the home treatment of elderly patients.

Some technical and regulatory challenges need to be managed, but we might be not so far from the day when a drone will dispatch medicines or collect lab tests right to our home.


Photo credit: Karolinska Institutet