Our populations are aging. Our populations have always been aging, yes, but it’s no secret that as large numbers of people age – and, notably, live longer – our governments, communities, and healthcare providers need to evolve to suit these new realities.
By and large, our hospitals and senior care facilities are not equipped to care for the amount of new patients who require services. Yes, there are care homes and facilities specifically for those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, however the cost of these options is sometimes, if not often, the barrier to receiving care. Additionally, rural and smaller communities often have incredibly well-trained staff, but dedicated care centres and facilities are often too far from family and community and are therefore not attractive options for those living with dementia.
So, we face a dilemma – our healthcare infrastructure was not designed to manage this large a population (564,000 people in Canada are currently living with dementia) of people requiring such specific care. The focus, then, often becomes “How do we keep elderly people safe and comfortable in their homes for a longer period of time?” and “How do we provide an excellent standard of care to all those who need it, regardless of income/money or geography?”
We think the answer to this question is technology.
As we witness the rise of inclusive design, wearable technology, and healthtech, we see more and more practical, adoptable solutions to common problems. This showcases the impact of technology and applies new, outside-the-box thinking to ongoing challenges. While many in healthtech and tech spaces are working to address issues facing our seniors and aging populations, there’s a stigma surrounding elderly people and technology that can often deter technologists from focusing on the challenges they face.
Many of us have an ‘I taught my parent/grandparent how to use a smartphone’ story; however, writing off seniors as tech-illiterate is a huge mistake with immeasurable consequences. If tech exists – or can be developed! – that makes senior care, dementia and Alzheimer’s care specifically, easier, safer, more efficient, then we should promote it!
Instead of sticking with the attitude ‘elderly people won’t use this’, we should be thinking “How can I solve this problem with technology elderly people can use?” Not to mention, myriad caregivers including family members, personal support workers, nurses, doctors, specialists, and more who could be tremendously impacted by using new technologies.
We often turn a blind eye to problems that aren’t directly our own; if you’ve never had a loved one living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, or don’t work in healthcare, it’s easy to avoid thinking about solving problems they face. Most technology revolves around making life more convenient, and that conversation often puts younger people/families at the forefront. But we should know and do better, so let’s not allow technology to abandon our aging populations.
DementiaHack, the world’s foremost dementia hackathon, returns to Toronto March 4-5, 2017. Register now to create impactful solutions that could – quite literally – change lives.