Simon Fraser University champions high-tech help for seniors

Wearable devices that monitor people’s movements and vital signs. Pill bottles that tell you when to take your medicine. An autonomous domestic robot named Nao.

These are just some of the interesting technologies participants of the Gerontechnology 7th World Conference will get to see firsthand. 

The conference,  hosted by Simon Fraser University’s Gerontology Research Centre (GRC), looks to assess the latest research and technologies needed to address an expected tsunami of demand for eldercare services in the next few decades.

More than 400 of the world’s leading experts in geriatric health, housing and assistive technology are meeting for the event. Through presentations, workshops and exhibits, gerontologists, engineers, computer scientists, architects, technology professionals, health-care providers, assisted-living companies and others will assess the latest research and technologies.

“We’re already dealing with the largest number of people over 65 in history,” says SFU gerontologist and founding GRC director, Gloria Gutman, who is in charge of logistics for the world conference—the first held in Canada—at the Marriott Pinnacle Hotel. “People over 85 are the fastest-growing section of the population—and half of them have, or will have, Alzheimer’s,” says Gutman. “But those numbers are going to explode in the next few years as Canada’s 8 ½ million baby boomers reach old age, and so will the cost of caring for them.”

Conference topics include rehabilitation engineering, robotics, telemonitoring, telecare, information and communication technology (ICT), biomechanics and ergonomics, assistive technology, inclusive design and usability, smart homes and smart fabrics, sensor technology, and cognitive aging and computer games. Presenters include SFU engineer Bozena Kaminska and SFU biomedical engineer Steve Robinovitch.

Technology may be the answer to maximizing scarce resources and providing better seniors care, “but not without safeguarding their security and privacy rights, and not at the cost of depression and isolation due to a loss of personal contact,” says Gutman, an expert on elder abuse. “We have to find ways to maintain both.”

The event features four opening ceremony speakers, four keynote speakers, and expert roundtables on subjects such as domotics and robotics for supporting seniors, telehealth and chronic disease management, falls detection and response, and active and passive monitoring technologies to support aging-in-place.

The event will run from May 27th to 30th.