Technology for Aging – Thanks to Government Research Funding

Technology innovations are exploding onto the market and ever-growing numbers of products useful for aging older adults (and family caregivers) are accessible.

We know many of these technology devices will be beneficial to seniors and their caregivers, though some will provide solutions looking for problems that your senior (and others) may never have.

It is important to investigate the new technologies coming to market with an eye toward usefulness.

Many new products aimed at older adults have been created by start-up companies trying to capitalize on the fast-growing number of seniors aging in place.

Other products are now being created to solve gaps to help seniors stay independent and healthy to age in place successfully and their family caregivers, with research funded by our tax dollars.

Government Funded Technology Development

The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering is producing biomedical innovations to improve our health.

I’ll bet you weren’t aware that our tax dollars are funding research into technology solutions that will one day be beneficial for our seniors in addition to their better-known clinical trial research.

Here are some new ideas taking shape right now:

  1. A wearable skin patch with dissolvable microneedles capable of effectively delivering an influenza vaccine. This painless technology with promising early results may offer a simple, affordable alternative to needle-and-syringe immunization.
  2. Fluorescent markers to help surgeons operate on tumors, removing tumor cells with greater precision in people with head and neck cancer, technology that might also be used to light up nerves, which can be very difficult to see and protect during operations.
  3. A wearable tattoo that is a small monitoring device to detect alcohol levels in perspiration. It was designed to monitor alcohol intake, which could help reduce unsafe drinking that can lead to vehicle crashes, violence, and the degeneration of the health of heavy drinkers.
  4. A new radiotracer to detect prostate cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.
  5. A new supercooling technique that promises to extend the time that organs donated for transplantation can remain viable outside the body for as long as up to four days.
  6. A new heart stent made of non-toxic, biodegradable material that completely dissolves once blockage is cleared, reducing long-term complications of lifelong stents currently in use.
  7. The world’s smallest MRI machine, which can detect cancer cells and bacteria at the cellular level more efficiently than biopsies.
  8. A handheld ultrasound device which, due to its portability, can be used at the bedside, in the operating room, or on the battlefield in place of the large machines now used in the office suite. One beauty of this ultrasound is that it can be used in rural settings and with underserved populations who have limited access to healthcare.
  9. Using smartphones and computer-aided tools to rapidly screen people for tuberculosis (TB). The smartphone-based system will shorten the wait time for diagnosis from weeks to hours. Rapid diagnosis, in turn, will reduce the transmission of TB to others and hasten the start of medications.
  10. Injectable hydrogel bandages to control internal bleeding and save lives in emergencies. The researchers combined a hydrogel base (a water-swollen polymer) and nanoparticles that interact with the body’s natural blood-clotting mechanism. The hydrogel expands to rapidly fill puncture wounds and stop blood loss.

Creation of Technology

Many may be unaware that our government, and thus our tax dollars, are funding research into technology. It isn’t always easy to discover and it is often part of smaller agencies and departments.

Did you know that microchips, computer networking, Siri, and the Global Positioning System were all developed by U.S. government agencies, often to solve a military problem?

Research happens at the government level while development of the technology generally is handed off to a private entity that assumes financial risk.

Regardless how tech advances that may benefit our seniors come into being, family caregivers will look for the solutions to their caregiving issues to help keep their senior loved ones healthy, safe, and independent.