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Technology and Aging

Medical Technologies, Ecological And Assistive Technology For The Disabled, Information Technology And Older Adults, Conclusion

The term ‘‘technology’’ embodies a broad variety of concepts. In The New Industrial State, John Kenneth Galbraith described technology as the ‘‘systematic application of scientific or other organized knowledge to practical tasks.’’ Within this broad definition technology may intersect with the lives of older persons in a variety of ways. Technology may include new knowledge gained through basic research on the biology of cellular aging or the development of new vaccines, as well as advances in communications between patients and physicians that enhance the goal of increased mobility and functioning. Technology also encompasses such processual developments as the emergence of new social institutions and complex organizational structures to accommodate changing health care needs of the older population. This includes not only changes in the clinical application of geriatric medicine and reform of the formal health care system, but also the ways in which kin structures evolve and adapt to the changing needs of their members (Litwak and Kulis).

The most familiar forms of technology for most people, however, are those referred to as ‘‘hard technology.’’ In this form technology comprises any product or device designed to enhance the well-being of the individual. Of greatest importance to the older population are innovations in three forms of technology: medical technology (including diagnostic and therapeutic devices such as CAT scans, or MRIs); ecological technologies (including environmental modifications and assistive devices); and information technology (comprising communications technology, computers, and the Internet).

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