Aging in Place. More than tooling around with Apps.

Like most themes around the future of living in a longevity society, aging in place has multiple dimensions; but when I talk about it generally over coffee talk, many people at first hearing the phrase, most often react as if it simply means accommodating the home environment by installing chair lifts, walk-in bathtubs and grab rails or hiring home care services. Rarely have I heard anyone talk about the practical use of broader technology applications. It’s almost as if that’s on the outer margins of present reality – wake me up in 2030.

After we mull over “home retrofitting” in coffee talk, one of the topics within aging in place that next, immediately excites attention is – health care delivery, and that usually has a common understanding that “we’re bringing in a nurse or physiotherapist” or other personal health care assistance. The leap of mind in conversation to technology & healthcare takes longer to unravel. Well brace yourself and open up the Wiktionary of technology augmenting aging in place.

These may still be early days but the world of research and development, with academic and business spheres in collaboration, has been hard at it, working on what all this will mean to improving the way we live out the promise of greater longevity. At times, it might remind you of the days when the whole dot com era seemed like an experiment, and look where we are we now.

sitting-watch-app

Back to the coffee talk of today. When someone brings up technology, health care and aging in place, you might imagine that we are in marvel, at the dawn of an era where Apps will rule the wrist, or wherever your wearable fits. And we are – in the marvel; and we won’t have to wait to wake up in 2030 to find that what is being worked on today will be commonplace sooner than expected.

But it’s more than tooling around with Apps.

Which is one of the reasons I’m looking forward to attending on October 27, the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research half-day event – Insights About Technology & Aging in Place with Alex Mihailidis, PhD, Scientific Director at Toronto based AGE-WELL as key-note speaker. His talk is titled, Disrupting the Current Technology & Aging Landscape. The breakout session that I have chosen is with John Helliker, Director of Strategic Partnerships and the Screen Industries Research & Training Centre (SIRT) at Sheridan College. His topic is Virtual & Augmented Reality: Opportunities for individual and social change within an aging population.

Pat Spadafora, Director of the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research and her team have put together what appears to be a well-rounded discussion wheel for this theme. I’m only disappointed that I could only choose one of four breakouts. Nothing like being spoiled for choice. In researching the other presenters I was struck by reading a blog post from Robyn Kalda at Health Nexus, titled  Apps for Health (But are they?) 

Here Kalda spells out where things are at in relation to (as in the byline for her Sheridan session) “using new technologies in health promoting ways.” Of course, this applies not only in respect to aging in place but to all life situations. As she says in her blog, after laying out three strategy areas for technology and health promotion: “health promoters have a wonderful opportunity to help guide technology in ways that will be healthy at all levels from the individual to the societal.”

Thus in the background, behind all this is the larger discussion about overall health care delivery and data gathering, technology solutions and their costs and the associated issues related to recalibrating and balancing all aspects of the systems in place, from hospitals and long-term care facilities to telemedicine and other technologies that augment aging in place. It’s a big agenda for everyone to digest as we build our way to the future of a longevity society.

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