What is meant by “gerotechnology?”
According to Forbes.com, gerotechnology, 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 burst, and building various technologies for the aging population is at a critical crossroads. A recent study from the Michigan State University researcher William Chopik finds that social technology use among older adults is linked to better self-rated health and fewer chronic illnesses and depressive symptoms.
“Older adults think the benefits of social technology greatly outweigh the costs and challenges of technology,” said Chopik, assistant professor of psychology. “And the use of this technology could benefit their mental and physical health over time.”
Gerotechnology uses the appropriate design and new technologies to promote independent living and autonomy in elderly people, while strengthening the support of their networks. Already, according to Home Care Magazine, 46% of baby boomers use a cellphone, 65% are active on social media, and a surprising 75% are digital buyers.
Baby Boomers, especially, who are more attuned and adaptive to technology, will place more demand on “gerotechnological” devices to maintain their quality of life and sense of well-being. Gerotechnological product ideas are emerging to assist the aging population and those affected by Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Product concept ideas that seem very promising include a gait or balance monitor with suggested interventions; a cognition monitor that records history over time and provides interventions; a driving ability tester, and affinity group tools (virtual) to lessen loneliness and isolation and promote socialization.
Members of the Alzheimer’s Association Technology Professional Interest Area Executive Committee have introduced the main areas of technological focus in dementia and implications for the future. The main domains of gerotechnology development include diagnosis assessment and monitoring, maintenance and functioning, leisure and activity, and caregiving and management. Members worked directly with individuals with dementia with past and present technology. Gerotechnologies ranged from appliances regarding safety (e.g., electronic door locks, in-home sensor systems) to mobility and social interaction solutions (e.g., senior smartphones).
Smartphones and tablets have opened personal computing to many new audiences and have created increasing interest in how such devices can be used across all aspects of life and society. Similarly, as the committee agreed, wearables, smart home systems (e.g., Amazon Alexa, Google Home Hub), robots, virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI) and self-sufficient (i.e., driverless) vehicles are triggering questions about how services can be efficiently delivered and improve overall well-being for those living with dementia.
Gerotechnology has only recently been gaining mainstream attention and further work and testing forges on to provide age-related technological advances and services to the growing aging population and rising numbers of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
As the size of the U.S. population ages 65 and older continues to grow, so too will the number and proportion of Americans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. Many integrated technological solutions can help maximize independence, improve health, safety, and quality of life, reduce neuropsychiatric symptoms, and lessen caregiver burden.
Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders can be sent to Dana Territo, author of “What My Grandchildren Taught Me About Alzheimer’s Disease,” at firstname.lastname@example.org.