Smart homes for older people: the new frontier

Flinders University

Friday, 07 June, 2024

Smart homes for older people: the new frontier

A tech revolution in elder care is occurring due to the worldwide boom in aging, according to researchers from Flinders University.

Across the Asia and Pacific regions, about one in seven people are aged 60 years or older, and projections indicate that by 2050, one in four people will fall within this age group.

A report by the Asian Development Bank suggests that the demographic transition to old age will take place even more rapidly in countries such as the People’s Republic of China, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam — which will have significant implications for health systems, as well as social and economic consequences.

In a new article in Frontiers in Public Health by Flinders University, the authors outline the potential for user-friendly, customised wearable devices, robotic assistants and sensors to enhance the independence and wellbeing of many more elderly people who want to ‘grow old gracefully’ in their own home.

“In extensive collaboration throughout the region, we have looked at older adult care and health service management,” said Associate Professor Angie Shafei, Flinders University Dean of Business.

“As the traditional family-base care models become unsustainable, China is pioneering new strategies in health and aged care management — including to suit the cultural and accessibility needs of dozens of distinct ethnic groups in the country.”

Innovative technologies for older adult care include virtual support groups and videoconferencing, telehealth and electronic health records, and other technologies for mobility and cognitive support such as rehabilitation or service robots.

Flinders University coauthor Dr Madhan Balasubramanian, Senior Lecturer in Health and Aged Care Management, said the key to more rapid uptake of these user-friendly and potentially life-changing technologies is to focus on creating solutions that resonate with older adult preferences — including comprehensive training to ease the transition.

“The potential for innovation is immense, with the need to address significant demographic changes in China, which has more than 260 million people aged 60 and above,” said Dr Balasubramanian, from the College of Business, Government and Law.

“For smart homes and so-called ‘gerontechnologies’ to truly revolutionise elder care, we need more than just gadgets. We need strong policies, robust infrastructure and research that bridges the digital divide.”

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