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The Elixir of Youth? Tech!

The stereotype of an older relative struggling with a smartphone or tablet while a toddler handles it with proficient ease may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to two new studies from the UK and Germany. Researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysisat (and reported by the Telegraph here) found that middle-aged people are becoming sharper and younger thanks to the demands of modern day technology. With so much of our lives necessarily spent online, and not just for work but to manage our finances, pay bills, email and so forth, we all have a litany of passwords and user-names to remember: often a source of frustration, but now apparently doing some good.

According to the article, people over 50 are scoring higher on cognitive function tests because of the need to interact with smart technology – and keep learning as it continues to develop. It’s not all positive though. As with younger generations, the studies revealed a marked decline in physical activity and a rise in obesity – hopefully something the burgeoning wearable technology health and fitness industry can help address.

Using technology to help make people smarter and improve their memory is being tackled in a more overt way by the “brain fitness” gaming market, which as NPR reports is currently worth $1 billion, and is set to be worth $6 billion by 2020. There has been much skepticism voiced about how effective these games really are, which is why one developer is taking the unusual step of putting the game through full clinical trials in the hope of securing approval from the FDA. Akili, which right out of the gate describes itself as “a different type of medical product” and brings together “leading cognitive neuroscientists, and top-tier entertainment software creators.”

Gamification is such a hot topic and this convergence of the best in entertainment software with a rigorous medical approach is a really exciting development. It’s also one that seems highly feasible if you consider the data collated in this emarketer report which says that “among US physicians polled, 84% reported using smartphones for professional purposes.” Those professional purposes included using diagnostic tools or clinical reference apps, as well as getting access to medical journals and patient educational tools.

So are we at a tipping point in the mHealth industry? It seems the opportunities are endless on every level, and the market demand is there. I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.


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