Back to the future: Is technology really helping older people?

Griffith University study future-proofs technological needs of older people


How can technology actually help people in aged care?


DO YOU find technology a help or a hindrance? Has having access to an iPhone or tablet meant you've been able to catch up with relatives and friends or is it all in the 'too hard' basket?

Australian researchers are aiming to find out how older people are really using technology, and how aged care services can help improve the lives of clients and residents through the appropriate use of robotic devices, computers, apps and programs.

The study is being launched by the Australian Aged Care Technologies Collaborative at Griffith University's Menzies Health Institute Queensland. It is being headed up by Professor Wendy Moyle, director of Griffith University's Healthcare Practice and Survivorship program.

She said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for better communication technologies across all age groups which is particularly important for many older people who live in aged care separated from their families and friends.

Professor Moyle said despite the pandemic opening up many opportunities for older people to try out new technologies some aged care providers and older people don't really know what they need, what's available and what might actually help them.

"We are conducting four surveys about technological needs in aged care - from the perspective of people over 65, carers, industry providers and health professionals,'' she said.

"We want to know what their personal needs are and the needs of their community in terms of technology. The results from the data will help develop a website that will help people and inform them of the choices available."

She said one of the main problems with older people and technology was the purchase of items such as phones, tablets or computers that they weren't able to operate or did not fix their immediate problem.

"So we end up with a lot of discarded technology.

"We also want to know how technology will help with mental health and active health, and find out what people currently use and what they would like to see in the future that may assist them.

"For example, nursing homes could benefit from the implementation of video-conferencing facilities to help connect residents with their families and friends if visiting in person is not possible. It's all about future proofing."

The surveys will also look at the use of wearable devices, assistive and robotic technologies such as wheelchairs and caregiver supports like robotic feeding spoons.

"While the sophistication of these technologies is both exciting and commendable, translation from concept to use within aged care services has been slow," the study outline says.

To download the surveys click HERE