The vital importance of technology in helping people “age in place”

As the Government of Canada’s Employment and Social Development web site wisely defines it in their Seniors Forum report:

“Aging in place means having the health and social supports and services you need to live safely and independently in your home or your community for as long as you wish and are able.”

The University Health Network takes up this concern – so heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic – in their recent article “Growing old at home: how tech is helping people ‘age in place’”. Here is an excerpt:

“Ron was able to make at-home caregiving [for his father, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease] manageable, in part, because he put his computer science background to work. He implemented various technologies, from low-tech physical aids like poles and handgrips to keep his dad from falling, to higher-tech video cameras and GPS trackers that allowed him to keep an eye on his dad while he was away.

If other people had access to the same kind of technology that he did, then more seniors would likely stay at home after becoming ill, he believes. It’s an issue that’s become even more urgent in the face of COVID-19 as families do their best to keep loved ones away from viral spread in long-term care facilities, while simultaneously trying to have as little face-to-face contact as possible.”

The UHN article goes on to note that Ron went on to become an advisor to AGE-WELL, a technology and aging network that supports the development of technologies and services to help people age gracefully at home. Federally funded through the Networks of Centres of Excellence, working with researchers from across the country, AGE-WELL’s host institution is UHN, and its physical home is at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. Researchers at KITE, the research arm of Toronto Rehab and a frequent collaborator with AGE-WELL, have long understood that remaining at home provides a better aging experience than a nursing home.

Dr. Geoff Fernie overlooks HomeLab, KITE’s home within a lab, where researchers test age-in-place technology.

Dr. Geoff Fernie overlooks HomeLab, KITE’s “home within a lab,” where researchers test age-in-place technology. (Photo credit: The KITE Research Institute at UHN​)

In my opinion, aging in place must most urgently be considered a highlight application, with important new social benefits being introduced during this current stage of the Digital Revolution. New technology developments will apply to smart homes, along with and feeding into connected communities and neighbourhoods. Health service organizations will connect directly to many of these initiatives.

Read more of the UHN article on aging in place technology endeavours here.

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