Smart Aging: Emerging Technology to Improve the Lives of Older Adults
with Debra Berlyn of the Project to Get Older Adults onLine (Project GOAL)
Advances in technology can play a critical role in supporting a healthy aging population.
Debra Berlyn, Executive Director of the Project to Get Older Adults onLine, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss ways that older adults are embracing technology to enhance and assist their lives as they age. Berlyn highlights innovative tech devices that monitor health and increase independence for the aging community.
Mar 31, 2023
Anderson: For the first time in history, adults aged 65 and older are projected to outnumber children by 2030. While improvements in healthcare and nutrition are key factors, technological innovations are also helping people live longer and maintain active, healthier lives. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Technology can play a key role in improving the lives of aging adults. Joining me to talk all about this is Debra Berlyn, executive director of the Project to Get Older Adults OnLine, also known as Project GOAL. Debra, thank you so much for being here.
Berlyn: Well, thank you for having me.
Anderson: So how would you say older adults have really embraced technology these days? What do you feel about that?
Berlyn: Well, a number of older adults -- in fact, many older adults -- have embraced technology, and are going great guns using technology and all the benefits that it offers. But there are a number of older adults that are still off the grid. About 36% don't have broadband at home. So they just can't use anything when they're at home. 25% don't use the Internet at all. Whether they are out of the home at the library, they're just not using the Internet. So that's a great concern. We need to get them connected. The industry and government are working together to try and get all of our individuals connected. And of course, I'm very concerned about the 65-plus community. So, we need to get them all connected.
Anderson: And of the ones who are connected, and are using technology, what are some of the more popular technologies, and what are they using them for?
Berlyn: Well, I think that the tablet, for example, is very popular with older adults. Smartphone use has grown greatly in the past several years. So, now, about 61% of older adults have smartphones. And smartphones are an incredibly helpful device for older adults because they have apps that connect to so many different technological devices that we're going to talk about. So, those are two very helpful devices that we see being used by older adults.
Anderson: A lot of what you talked about -- the tablets, the smartphones, the apps that run on those, are shown at CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. It happens every year in Las Vegas. I know you like to keep tabs on it. What did you see on your last visit that really stood out?
Berlyn: Yes, I did see a great number of tech devices that will be very helpful for older adults and for accessibility. For example, hearing loss is a great issue for older adults, who have diminished hearing with mild to moderate hearing issues. So, one device that I saw -- I know there are hearing aids, for example, but this device is a pair of glasses that have lenses that show -- through closed captioning, show text that you can see in the lens. So, when I'm talking to you, it will show -- your voice will turn into text on the lens. So, right now the -- the glasses look kind of clunky, but eventually, they'll look a lot nicer, and will also be compatible with your prescription glasses. And I think, in the future, this will be a great innovation for older adults. Another product that I saw, which I think will be fabulous, of course, were autonomous vehicles. As we get older, we all will have, perhaps, some mobility issues, some diminished sight. And driving is such an important independent thing for all of us. So autonomous vehicles are an important technological advancement for older adults. One final thing that I saw was an autonomous lawn mower. So, while many of us want to stay in our homes and live independently, this is a great device to have, so that we can stay in our home and keep our lawns neat and clean by having this autonomous lawn mower. It's similar to that great mop device that many people have. It just mows our lawn. So, these are some fun things that I saw at CES.
Anderson: So what excites you when it comes to the future of how technology is being designed for older adults, and really being integrated into their lives? Are there trends you're looking at?
Berlyn: I think one of the most important things about technology for older adults is what it can do to improve and enhance our health as we go forward. So, helping us to live a better and healthier life. There are devices that maintain our fitness and improve fitness. There are devices that help with with connecting to our doctors and monitoring health. I saw medical devices that can actually read all of your vital signs. And these are the sort of, I think, innovations that will keep us healthier as we age. And these are so important as technology advances, as we age, keeping us to live longer and better.
Anderson: People are going to want to know more about what you do. What is your website?
Berlyn: Website is theprojectgoal.org. You can go there to get more information and resources about what we do, and about aging and technology.
Anderson: Debra Berlyn with the Project GOAL. Thank you for being here.
Berlyn: Thank you for having me. This is great.
Anderson: And thanks to you, as well, for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, visit ComcastNewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.