More control over health by the elderly must be reflected in technology

It is important to realize that innovation should in particular facilitate us to lead a valuable life of our own for as long as possible. Important preconditions are to remain as fit, healthy and independent as possible. The social task is to realize technological innovation that suits the elderly and makes it easy to (continue to) participate when you are older, which makes informal care fun and/or relieves those close to you.

Management of the elderly in innovations

In order to achieve this, it is essential that the elderly themselves and their informal caregivers are given the opportunity to be ‘in the lead’ in the process of technological development. After all, it is about their way of optimizing their (social) life.

And unfortunately that is still often the case. Much (care) technology for the elderly is based on negative stereotypes. Even the report of the Council of Elders is mainly based on care questions and care solutions. This ultimately leads to care innovations with which the elderly cannot sufficiently identify themselves.

The crux lies in the usual approach of the elderly as passive and in need of help, instead of looking at what they themselves can contribute to the development of technological care innovations and how they themselves make use of the ultimate solutions. Make use of this, because it determines the ultimate success of technological care innovation aimed at the elderly.

Potential technology opportunities, if…

And there are many potential technological opportunities to make older people’s lives valuable. As mentioned, it is important that the elderly can exert influence on this themselves through easy mutual – technologically supported – communication options.

In concrete terms, this means that the technology should not primarily start from what are professionally useful or necessary (care) means of communication (such as ECDs, medication modules, alarm systems)… It should take the communication needs of the elderly themselves as a starting point, with them in the lead† For example, by creating an easily accessible mutual communication platform together with them, which also provides access to care, games and entertainment and practical matters such as shopping apps.

Doing this creates new opportunities. Opportunities to support the resilience of the elderly can be found in areas such as neighborhood design and facilities, their social role, facilitating meetings and combating loneliness, transport, meals, sports and games. But also in home furnishings (smart homes), in the field of culture and of course healthcare itself. The greatest gains can be made here, especially among the elderly with a low socio-economic position (with diverse cultural backgrounds).

In the event of changes also obstacles

As with all changes, there are also impeding factors. Various studies have shown that many elderly people also believe that technology can maintain and increase their independence and social network. But at the same time they are afraid that current technology is robbing them of their privacy. Furthermore, the lack of knowledge in dealing with the technology plays a role, and this increases exponentially with unreliability, slowness and frequent failure of the technology. The dependence on (linked) informal caregivers (as an alarm) also forms a barrier.

Low-threshold coaching on and access to computer use, free tablets and laptops, content that suits (subgroups of) the elderly and making computer use meaningful, can do a lot to remove obstacles. High-quality and reliable software and hardware with low-threshold coaching and help is essential.

It must also be clear that ownership of the personal data lies with the person in question and not with the administrator of the technology or with a third party such as (healthcare) professionals (the concept of personal data stores). Here too, it is important not to start primarily from professionally useful and necessary (care) means of communication in the development. And an acute crisis-like question, for example, should not automatically end up with a caregiver, unless desired.

Give the elderly the lead

Therefore, give the elderly and informal carers the lead during the development process and set up the technology in such a way that they remain in control of the developed solution. Ensure that they themselves gain and maintain influence on (communication around) their own health. After all, it is ultimately about stimulating technological innovation with which the elderly can identify to a large extent. This allows them to take charge of promoting their health and leading a valuable life.

Opening event 2022

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