As a consistent and enthusiastic follower of AGE-WELL – Canada’s technology and aging network since its beginning, I took the opportunity to sit in on their first 2019 webinar this afternoon. I like to keep informed of their success story, which also helps me further explain to others, who are largely unaware, what innovative activities are taking place in the technology & aging space.
The three featured presenters – Julie Robillard, Assistant Professor of Neuroethics (Neurology), University of British Columbia, Ian Goldman, AGE-WELL Older Adult and Caregiver Committee and Dr. Kristine Goulet, Chiropractor and President of Monarch Clothes – shared what you might call their active engagement stories with AGE-WELL, each from a different entry point.
If you were a complete novice to this subject area of research in technology and aging, this webinar would have been a relatively good start, however I think if AGE-WELL were to take this webinar series on a road show for the general public then a better introductory session, prior to this one, would be in order. Such as session would clearly outline the research themes and answer how this research is already helping older adults and caregivers.
Perhaps a moderated interview format with the leader of AGE-WELL and an actual older adult who has benefited from these technologies, followed by more time for interaction with participants. That’s what was missing here today, not enough time built in for well-moderated Q&A.
Apart from that critique, this first webinar at best provided some insight on how a few different elements of the network interact, ending with an actual example of a product that is already on the market – adaptive clothing for older adults and those living with disabilities – Monarch Clothes.
A few takeaways from today. As Julie Robillard pointed out, the next wave of older adults will be more tech-savvy than those who are the so called older adults we see today. Not to get bogged down here on the subject of the language we use on aging, the question I have with all this is – how do you define who is an older adult? It is not about a person’s age, but rather what their condition is in their later life course.
Robillard’s piece was the best, as she outlined the issues around engagement of end users with lived experience and their part in assistive technology research projects such as mobile apps and social robotics (artificial intelligence systems). Her slides that covered the four barriers to end user adoption of products designed were most useful:
- Perceived Benefits – low or moderate quality evidence
- Emotional Alignment – actual comfort with interaction with the tech product
- Accessibility – geographical access, poor interface design, cost
- Ethics – privacy, ethical truth in advertising
Professionally laid out guidelines have been established for end user engagement in technology research and design address all four barriers. This background information and insights on the research process and the reinforcement of the absolute value of end user engagement made attending this initial webinar well worth it for me. I will post the webinar slides on my website resource page once they arrive. AGE-WELL should get all the recognition it deserves.