Immigration, Medical Research, and Robots: U.S. S&T Policy for an Aging Society

Sunday, February 19, 2017: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Room 310 (Hynes Convention Center)
David Hart, George Mason University, Arlington, VA
Science and technology policy in the United States generally does not explicitly focus on the aging society, but it is already shaping such a society and the transition to it. This presentation first presents U.S. demographic trends in comparative perspective, showing a more gradual but steady aging of the population. A key focus of U.S. policy is medical research investments that aim to impact aging and associated diseases and may lead to new therapies to address them. The presentation then considers how technologies may support aging in place, through connectivity, telehealth and remote patient monitoring, and mobility and the built environment. For older people who are no longer able to care for themselves, care-taking technologies, such as robots, may provide important services, although such technologies appear to be advancing more slowly in the United States than in other advanced societies in part because of the availability of low-cost labor, especially that provided by immigrants. The paper concludes by considering the impact of public policy on demand for services by aging Americans; demand-pull is likely to be even more important for aging-related science and technology than the supply-push provided by Federal R&D spending. The Obama Administration began a process to develop a more explicit and comprehensive science and technology policy for an aging United States, but the realization of this policy was left to its successors.