Assistive Technology Conference Explores Smart Homes and Technology for Senior Housing
Written by Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship on November 12, 2018.
The Fourth Mason Assistive Technology Conference was held last October 30 at Founders Hall in Arlington with the theme “Innovations in Smart Homes & Smart Cities: Assistive Technologies and Building Safe and Supportive Communities for Aging and Special Needs.” The conference was co-hosted by the School of Business Research Partnerships and Grants Initiative, the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship, and the Northern Virginia Regional Health Information Organization.
The conference featured technology experts, health care providers, architects, senior living community leaders, and users with presentations on innovations in smart homes and smart cities and ramifications of emerging technologies for ageing societies and special needs.
Bart Édes of the Asian Development Bank’s North American Representative Office started the conference with a presentation of aging societies as a global phenomenon with differing policy approaches and best practices among affected countries, cities, and municipalities.
Laurence Caudle, a principal with Hickok Cole Architects, followed with a presentation on design trends for aging in place and senior living. Mr. Caudle pointed out that today’s generation of seniors places high importance on easy access to amenities and entertainment options, increasingly preferring to spend as much of their retirement as possible in urban or urban-like developments. Buildings for seniors are now being designed with plenty of common spaces and activity areas as seniors remain healthier, more active, and more likely to work into their retirement age.
Senior living units are experimenting with new technologies such as virtual reality to bring more immersive experiences and entertainment to seniors who become homebound. Assistive technologies such as assistive exoskeletons, spring-assisted staircases, and robotic assistants are being tested to allow seniors to live independently for longer periods. Smart home features such as self-monitoring and self-adjusting HVAC, lighting, and security systems can also help seniors age in place. Sensors allow for remote health monitoring for added personal safety.
Sean Burke, the Global Strategy & Innovation Lead – Corporate Citizenship of global consulting firm Accenture, followed with a presentation that focused on equity as another issue that can be addressed by assistive technology. In the United States, people with a disability are 38% less likely to be employed and if employed, earn 33% less salary. Disabled Americans are three times less likely to have online access which has become crucial to seek economic opportunities and advancement.
Mr. Burke showed the assistive technology products Accenture has been developing to harness the power of mobile technology, artificial intelligence, and sensors to address this equity gap. Among these were a smart phone based application that recognizes and identifies objects for the visually impaired, software that produces real-time speech-to-text and text-to-speech captioning for the hearing and speech impaired, a voice-activated platform based on Amazon’s Alexa to manage care and independent living for seniors, and an IBM Watson virtual agent to help people with dementia communicate.
Lainie Muller, Director of Health and Wellness at sensor and security technology leader Alarm.com, focused on the use of technology to address another challenge of an increasing aging population – the lack of required caregivers for seniors. Muller’s company embeds sensors in homes which are connected and monitored through cloud technology.
The data is accessible through mobile devices and not only allows seniors to manage and monitor their homes more easily, but also allows family members and caregivers to remotely monitor seniors’ well-being and safety, potentially extending their stay in their current home or in independent living. Added visual and voice connections allow for remote interaction.
Additional presenters from tech firm Eyegaze featured a system which allows users to use eye movement to control communication devices and the Hyphen Group and Zengears discussed the applications of data analytics.
The constant thread throughout the conference is that seniors will make up an increasing proportion of our population. Ten thousand people turn 65 years old every day and 56 million people will be over the age of 65 by 2020. Issues around senior living and assistive care will continue to be a more pressing in the coming years and will be an increasingly important market for designers, builders, technology companies, and senior service providers.
To view some of the presentations from the conference, please go HERE.
(Pictures from Hickok Cole and Alarm.com)
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