Creating Technology Solutions to Support Healthy Aging

The Sheridan Elder Research Centre (SERC) is all about creating possibilities. For example, this fall SERC is once again sponsoring its ‘Possibility Makers Student Award’. Sheridan College students have been given the challenge to come up with a creative idea for a technology solution that supports healthy aging in place. ‘Aging in Place’ can happen wherever an older adult happens to be living; in the community, in a retirement home, in assisted living or in long-term care. This is an opportunity for students to get creative and use their imaginations to come up with something new or improve on existing technology.

There are new and exciting technologies being created that improve the well-being and quality of life for older adults. Below is a small sample of some of the technology applications that have recently come to our attention.

Art as Therapy is a web application that creator Alain De Botton describes as, “a tool to put you in contact with particular works of art that are helpful to look at when facing certain problems. We believe the point of art in general is to offer therapeutic assistance; it should help us to better endure and enjoy our lives.” An article in the UK Daily Mail Online explains that to begin using the application, a user chooses a category that is worrying them. Users can choose from categories such as work, love, anxiety, self, politics and free time. After choosing a category, the user then selects a sentence that best describes how they are feeling. A piece of art and a description appear that ‘show how art can help with many common difficulties, from forging good relationships, finding happiness, to coming to terms with mortality’.

The ‘Carer’ is a mobile ‘creativity support application’ used by healthcare professionals to care for individuals with dementia and is currently being trial tested in UK residential homes. The app is designed to aid care workers with the diagnosis and response to difficult situations. A care staff member uses the app to describe a problematic situation they are encountering. The Carer then retrieves appropriate descriptions of good care practices from its database. The Carer can also record successes and additional problems to build up a base to share with other Carer users. The Carer website explains that the app, “was designed so that care staff can generate contributions to resident care plans that are novel and hence individualized to the resident as part of a shift towards more person-centred care”.

Developed in British Columbia the ‘Claris’ is a wireless, large text touch screen tablet designed to send alerts, messages and automated reminders to the user. According to the developers of Claris, “Unlike traditional computers, tablets, cell phones or monitoring devices, Claris Companion is specifically designed to provide the perfect balance of social and health care content for older seniors”. The tablet offers features such as; emails and text messages, uploading digital photos, medication reminders, event reminders, web browsing, alerts, call me button, wellness surveys, check in, exercise videos and video chat. The Claris tablet can be managed remotely by family and caregivers from any computer, tablet or smartphone.

SERC recognizes and promotes creative technology solutions that have the potential to improve the quality of life for older adults. We will keep you posted on the results for the Possibility Makers Student Awards.

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