Old School Meets New School: 10 Tech Innovations Improving the lives of the Elderly
Australia’s population is aging. In 2017, about 1 in 7 Australians were aged 65 and over. By 2057 this number is expected to rise to make up 22% of the total population. On one hand, an aging population comes with many economic challenges such as pressure on the healthcare system, stress on aged care facilities and resource constraints. On the other hand, an aging population creates an opportunity to innovate and create new solutions for the needs of elderly Australians. Luckily, Australia has seen its demographic shift as an opportunity to grow and consequently has invested heavily in technology-based innovations- to meet the needs of the elderly. This article aims to highlight 10 of the coolest and most interesting innovations within the technology for elderly industry. It is important to note the tech innovation space for the elderly in Australia is still in its early stages, and so most of these cool innovations are from the international scene.
Before we delve into these awesome innovations, let’s first take a look at the needs of Australia’s elderly. According to recent research conducted by KPMG (2019) the aged care services industries are under a lot of pressure as there are three growing concerns: 1) falling levels of public trust from older Australians and their families, 2) rising expectations for personalised services to create a better quality of life and, 3) implementation of scalable technology. From this research, it becomes clear that the needs of the elderly seem to be: a desire to increase the quality of their everyday lives through better services, better technology and better communication.
Here are 10 of the most interesting innovations aiming to increase the quality of life for the elderly:
1. Embodied Labs
Embodied labs used Virtual Reality headsets to stimulate the experience of certain illnesses such as Alzeimers and Pakinson’s disease. The aim is for caregivers to virtually experience the illness and better identify care needs and deliver superior care. After all, nothing makes us more empathetic than experiencing a situation first hand.
2. Intuition Robots
Intuition robots use artificial intelligence to act as a personal assistant and companion to the elderly. The robots include features such as medicine reminders, encouraging its owners to take care of their health such as going for walks, and seamless connection to existing communication apps such as WhatsApp. Robots might just become the new sidekicks to aging.
3. Virtual Retirement Villages
One of the biggest growing concerns among the elderly is losing their independence. To main independence, many choose to stay in their own homes. However, this creates the problem of social isolation. Virtual Retirement Villages act as online gateway to staying connected to like-minded and like-aged people. The retirement villages hold online classes, as well as real life gatherings to help elderly people meet their peers in the same community. Anyone down for a virtual disco?
4. Virtual Reality Holidays
For many elderly suffering from mobility issues, hopping on a plane is sadly no longer a viable option. Virtual Reality headsets allow the elderly persons (or anyone with mobility issues) to travel to new destinations without leaving their room.
5. Pill Taking Devices
Having to take many different medications at different times can be hard to remember even for the most attentive of us. EasyPill is a device is a multi-storage pill container which lights up the right pills to take at the right time. This allows people to regain their independence and have one less thing to stress about. Also, allowing peace of mind for the loved ones of the elderly. Honestly, I think I might get one too.
6. Gamifying rehabilitation through Virtual Reality
Rehab after surgery or temporary loss of mobility can be challenging for many. With virtual reality, painful exercises can be made into gamified experiences, making the rehabilitation process both pleasant and more fun!
7. Better coordination of care through cloud-based record sharing
One of the biggest challenges to providing great care to the elderly, is the disjointed communication among their health care team. With cloud based record keeping, all health care providers will have access to the same patient record, resulting in better care for the elderly.
8. Online courses to manage mental health
While this innovation is nothing new there is a gap in the market for creating resources catered specifically to the experiences of elderly Australians. Sadly, mental health, specifically depression is one of the biggest challenges faced in aged care facilities. By providing online mental health resources, specifically online counselling, we can start tackling the mental health crisis.
9. Virtual doctor’s office
For many living in rural parts of Australia, going to the doctors every week is not an accessible option. To reduce the health care gap, a virtual doctor’s office will allow healthcare providers to help out the elderly located in rural Australia.
10. Fall detection wearables
Once over the age of 65, unfortunately, the risk of having a fall does increase. To help the elderly in this situation, fall detection wearables immediately alert family members or healthcare professionals when a fall has occurred, increasing the response time to help out the person who has fallen.
With an aging population, it is important for Australia to look into increasing the quality of life and providing better services to our elderly. The above ten tech innovations are the way of the future, and tackle problems from healthcare to social isolation. While many of these innovations may not be perfect, they are on the way to paving a path of wellbeing and a significantly increased quality of life for our elderly.
Anika is a Social Impact Officer at SOULAB. She is a lover of philosophy, data and all things aesthetics!
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2020. Older Australia At A Glance, Australia’S Changing Age & Gender Profile - Australian Institute Of Health And Welfare. [online] Available at: <https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/older-people/older-australia-at-a-glance/contents/demographics-of-older-australians/australia-s-changing-age-and-gender-profile> [Accessed 18 March 2020].
Halpert, J., 2020. 7 New Tech Devices For Elder Care That Help Seniors Live Happier, Healthier Lives. [online] CNBC. Available at: <https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/12/7-new-tech-devices-for-that-help-seniors-live-happier-healthier-lives.html> [Accessed 18 March 2020].
KPMG, 2019. Innovation In Age Services. [online] KPMG. Available at: <https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/au/pdf/2019/innovation-in-aged-care-services-report-2019.pdf> [Accessed 18 March 2020].
Medical Device Research Institute, Flinders University, 2017. A TECHNOLOGY ROADMAP FOR THE AUSTRALIAN AGED CARE SECTOR. [online] THE AGED CARE INDUSTRY IT COUNCIL (ACIITC). Available at: <http://aciitc.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/ACIITC_TechnologyRoadmap_2017.pdf> [Accessed 18 March 2020].
Reader's Digest. 2020. The 10 Smartest Innovations In Senior Living You Never Knew About. [online] Available at: <https://www.rd.com/culture/smart-tech-top-10-innovations-in-senior-living/> [Accessed 18 March 2020].