What is meant by “gerotechnology”?
According to Forbes.com, gerotology, sometimes called agetech, is a scientific field of blending gerontology (the scientific study of old age) with technology.
With more than 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, this market is about to explode, and building various technologies for an aging population is at a critical crossroads. A recent study by Michigan State University researcher William Chopik found that social technology use among older adults was associated with better self-rated health and fewer chronic illnesses and depressive symptoms.
“Seniors believe that the benefits of social technology greatly outweigh the costs and challenges of technology,” said Chopik, assistant professor of psychology. “And using this technology may benefit their mental and physical health over time.”
Gerotechnology uses appropriate design and new technologies to promote independent living and autonomy for older people while strengthening the support of their networks. Already, according to Home Care Magazine, 46% of baby boomers use a mobile phone, 65% are active on social media and a surprising 75% are digital shoppers.
Baby boomers in particular, who are more tech-savvy and adaptable, will place greater demand on “gerotech” devices to support their quality of life and sense of well-being. Ideas are emerging for gerotech products to help the aging population and those affected by Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Product concept ideas that look very promising include a gait or balance monitor with suggested interventions; a cognitive monitor that records history over time and provides interventions; driving ability tester and affinity group tools (virtual) to reduce loneliness and isolation and promote socialization.
Members of the Alzheimer’s Association Professional Technology Interest Area Executive Committee presented key areas of technology focus in dementia and implications for the future. Key areas of gerotechnology development include diagnostic assessment and monitoring, maintenance and functioning, leisure and activity, and care and management. Members have worked directly with people with dementia with past and present technologies. Gerotechnologies ranged from safety-related devices (e.g. electronic door locks, home sensor systems) to mobility and social interaction solutions (e.g. smartphones for adults).
Smartphones and tablets have opened personal computing to many new audiences and created a growing interest in how such devices can be used in all aspects of life and society. Similarly, as the committee agreed, wearables, smart home systems (eg Amazon Alexa, Google Home Hub), robots, virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI) and self-sufficient (ie driverless) vehicles raise questions about how services can be delivered effectively and improve the overall well-being of people living with dementia.
Gerotechnologies have only recently gained mainstream attention, and further work and testing continues to provide age-related technological advances and services for the growing aging population and the increasing number of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
As the size of the US population aged 65 and over continues to grow, so will the number and proportion of Americans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Many integrated technology solutions can help maximize independence, improve health, safety and quality of life, reduce neuropsychiatric symptoms and reduce caregiver burden.
Questions about Alzheimer’s or related disorders can be sent to Dana Territo, author of What My Grandchildren Taught Me About Alzheimer’s, at [email protected]