Last week, Project GOAL hosted a policy briefing on Capitol Hill, “Yes, Even Older Americans Are in the ‘Race to 5G!’,” revealing a national survey conducted to better understand what older adults expect from technology as they age. At the event, panelists discussed not only how technology will aid the aging process but how next generation networks are vital to fully experiencing the benefits of these innovations.
The survey focused on the role technology plays in the independence of older adults. Most notably, 88 percent of the those surveyed – 500 participants between ages 65 and 75 years of age – believe technology with be helpful in remaining independent as they get older. More than half would like to see innovations realized soon; more than half would like to see these technological advancements become a reality in the next three to five years.
Respondents were asked what technology would be most important for them during the aging process. The top interests included healthcare devices, technology that eases safety, security and home maintenance, virtual reality to stay in touch with family, as well as technology to assist with mobility issues in and out of the house.
“How do we get to all these things?” posed CTIA’s Christopher Salemme. “5G” was his clear answer. The expert panel helped illuminate the importance of high functioning wireless networks with low latency and the ability to handle large data capacity required by these technologies. “5G will create many innovations and opportunities. This is what we saw happen with 4G, so we know that will also occur with 5G in the coming months and years,” added Debra Berlyn, Executive Director of Project GOAL.
In addition, nearly half of those surveyed were concerned about losing the ability to drive. With this in mind, Henry Claypool of the Coelho Center for Disability Law at Loyola Marymount University stated, “Another aspect of 5G that is major would be autonomous vehicles. Right now we have cars that are increasingly tech savvy. For older adults these can be crucial for things like going to doctor appointments, support them in where they are, assist them with where they’re going. [5G] infrastructure will enable this.”
Rachel Nemeth with the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) shared a phrase that the CTA Foundations uses, “active aging,” to describe a “proactive way of living that embraces the aging process and new technologies available.” Next generation networks will empower active aging, encouraging everyone to live healthier, more mobile and independent lives. It is therefore important that policymakers do everything they can to encourage the deployment of 5G infrastructure that will help bring technology innovations to the aging community.