It is important to realize that innovation in particular must make it easier for us to live a valuable life of our own for as long as possible. Important prerequisites are to stay as healthy, wholesome and independent as possible. The social task is to realize technological innovation that suits the elderly and makes it easy to (continue) to participate as you get older, which makes informal care fun and / or relieves those closest to you.
Leadership of older people in innovations
To achieve this, it is essential that the elderly themselves and their informal caregivers are given the opportunity to be ‘at the forefront’ in the technological development process. It is about their way of optimizing their (social) life.
And unfortunately, this is still often the case. Much (care) technology for the elderly is based on negative stereotypes. Even the Elderly Council’s report is mainly based on care issues and care solutions. This ultimately leads to care innovations that the elderly cannot adequately identify with.
The crux lies in the usual approach to 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 technological possibilities if …
And there are many potential technological opportunities to make the lives of older people more valuable. As mentioned, it is important that the elderly themselves can influence this through easy mutual – technologically supported – communication opportunities.
In concrete terms, this means that the technology should not primarily be based on what are professionally useful or necessary (care) means of communication (such as ECDs, medicine modules, alarm systems) … It should take the communication needs of the elderly as a starting point, with them at the head† For example, by working with them to create an easily accessible mutual communication platform that also provides access to care, games and entertainment and practical things like shopping apps.
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, transportation, meals, sports and play. But also in interior design (smart homes), in the field of culture and of course the health care system itself. Here the biggest gains can be achieved, especially among older people with a low socio-economic position (with different cultural backgrounds).
With changes also obstacles
As with all changes, there are also inhibitory factors. Various studies have shown that many older people also believe that technology can preserve and increase their independence and social networks. But at the same time, they are afraid that current technology will deprive them of their privacy. Furthermore, the lack of knowledge in the handling of the technology plays a role, and this increases exponentially with unreliability, slowness and frequent errors in the technology. The dependence on (affiliated) informal caregivers (as an alarm) also poses a barrier.
Low-threshold coaching on and access to computer use, free tablets and laptops, content suitable for (subgroups of) older and meaningful computer use can do much to remove obstacles. High quality and reliable software and hardware with low threshold coaching and help are essential.
It must also be clear that the ownership of the personal data lies with the person concerned and not with the administrator of the technology or with a third party such as (health) professionals (the concept of personal data warehouses). It is also important here in the development not primarily to take as a starting point professionally useful and necessary (care) means of communication. And an acute crisis-like issue, for example, should not automatically end with a relative unless desired.
Give the elderly the lead
Therefore, give the elderly and informal carers the guidance during the development process and set the technology in such a way that they are in control of the developed solution. Ensure that they themselves gain and maintain influence on (communication about) their own health. After all, it is ultimately about stimulating technological innovation, which the elderly can to a large extent identify with. This allows them to take responsibility for promoting their health and living a valuable life.