Sunday, September 27, 2020

Guest Blogger: Dr. Yanira Cruz “IP Transition Benefits Independent Seniors”

Dr.-Yanira-CruzA couple of decades ago, none of us could have predicted the countless opportunities and innovations that broadband connectivity has made possible.  Broadband access transforms lives and delivers more possibilities for better health, wellness, and quality of life, to name only a few.

At the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA), we work to improve the lives of Hispanic older adults, their loved ones, and their caregivers.  Increased access to broadband helps us achieve this important goal by reaching more people.  This essential connection also provides access to information and resources for the communities we serve, thereby helping us focus our efforts on empowering Hispanic older adults and helping them to age with dignity and in the best possible health.  In my role as President and CEO, I also work to encourage adoption of policies and programs that serve everyone equally—including the Latino community—and it’s clear to me that expanded access to next-generation broadband networks will benefit many different communities and help us all work together to achieve a variety of public health goals.

The necessity of modern communication networks was highlighted in a recent blog post by Kelly Buckland of the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) titled “IP Transition Has Potential to Remove Barriers.”  The NCIL is an advocacy organization that works to advance independent living and the rights of people with disabilities.  And indeed, I agree with the message of the post: The expansion of and transition to a 21st century broadband network infrastructure will bring us new innovations that can enhance the lives of people with disabilities.  In fact, high-speed broadband and broadband-enabled technologies and devices have already delivered innovative solutions for a variety of challenges that not just Hispanics—but all kinds of people face.

Meeting these challenges will require a robust, modern broadband infrastructure that is capable of supporting the devices, services, and speeds that we will need, both now and well into the future.  This is why it’s vitally important that we ensure that a smart regulatory framework is in place that encourages continued private sector innovation, enhancements, and investment into our nation’s communications infrastructure. Yesterday, the FCC took an important step in this process by inviting our nation’s carriers to present their plans for completing the transition to these upgraded networks.  Carriers will be allowed to conduct limited location-specific trials in which they transition to all broadband networks.  These trials provide the chance to identify and solve any communications challenges associated with an all-broadband nationwide network.  Even better, these trials are an opportunity for government, industry leaders, and consumers to work together to develop solutions and to ensure that no one gets left behind as the networks are upgraded.  The end result of this collaboration will be an expanded, robust nationwide broadband infrastructure that is capable of supporting the services and innovations of the future.

Ensuring that providers know the rules of the road, and have an equal footing on which to compete means that these advancing technologies can continue to bring solutions to many issues facing our aging communities as well.  Such innovations have the potential to help people—seniors, minority communities, and certainly, people with disabilities—to live happier, healthier, more independent lives.

There are many innovative solutions that are geared to seniors or designed to help seniors who have disabilities, chronic conditions, or other challenges, to live independently.  Because the majority of seniors prefer to “age in place,” living at home and taking care of themselves for as long as possible, various devices and systems for the home are becoming popular, and more are on the horizon.

For instance, home monitoring systems aren’t just for home security anymore. They can also help seniors summon help in an emergency, as well as allow families to check on aging loved ones by detecting movement and activity levels.  In-home smart sensor systems, already in use in Europe, connect to a wall-mounted tablet and help seniors by sounding alarms if a door is left open or by offering spoken reminders about medications or tasks.  Advancements like these can help seniors turn their homes into digitally connected, so-called “smart homes,” outfitted with devices and systems that can predict problems, ensure safety, and enable independent living.

Wearable, wireless biosensors also offer solutions, especially for those with mobility challenges.  These small sensors can predict falls and make it easy to locate someone in an urgent situation.  Other developments include smart pill bottles, which can solve the very common problems of medication compliance by reminding patients to take their pills via text or using visual and auditory clues.

These advancements are necessary for helping our aging populations to continue living independently, but there are other problem-solving innovations being developed, seemingly every day, for the benefit of other populations.  Ensuring that the right policies are in place to encourage private sector investment in expanding access to modern broadband connectivity will benefit us all by giving us the information and tools we need to live better, fuller, healthier lives.

Dr. Yanira Cruz is the President and CEO of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)

This article originally appeared in a NHCOA Blog