Roadmap shows older people having time of their lives

A national report launched in Canberra by the Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt shows how rapid and continuous growth of new technologies is radically transforming the lives of older Australians for the better.

Researchers at Flinders University report that technology considered rare just a decade ago has become the new normal, changing aged care by allowing people to spend years longer in their own homes while accessing unprecedented levels of health care – all enhanced by access to a rapidly increasing range of life improving services ranging from gardening to art classes.

The new Technology Roadmap for Aged Care in Australia, commissioned by the Aged Care Industry IT Council (ACIITC), will be music to the ears of most Australians, who time and again have made clear their desire to enjoy a high quality of life in their own homes as they age.

“Almost all older people want to live in their own homes, with residential aged care being the service response to high level challenges in functioning and health,” said the report’s author, Dr Kate Barnett.

“This is increasingly possible as technology changes the way people live and work, automating some roles and creating new technology-driven roles supported by communication methods capable of transcending time and distance.

“As technology becomes increasingly accessible to consumers with leading mobile platform providers (such as Apple and Google) expanding into Smart Homes, wearable technologies, autonomous vehicles and so on, consumers are perceiving technology as a key enabler of care, support and quality of life.

“What was once science fiction has become science fact, increasing opportunities for people to age at home without losing their independence.”

Recent aged care reforms in Australia have supported the continued expansion of care in the community, in line with consumer preferences.

Independence, good health, security, and continued participation in family and community life are frequently identified as desirable key indicators of the experience sought in growing older.

Dr Barnett is just one of a number of Flinders researchers involved in projects and programs that already make significant contributions to the transformation in aged care.

These include the Director of Flinders’ Medical Device Research Institute (MDRI), Professor Karen Reynolds, and Flinders’ Strategic Professor of Restorative Care, Sue Gordon.

The MDRI has helped to bring a number of medical technologies to market in recent years, while Professor Gordon is currently leading one of Australia’s largest studies on healthy ageing.

Flinders is also working on a bid for the SMART Ageing Commonwealth Research Centre led by Professor Anthony Maeder, Professor Trish Williams and Professor Reynolds; and is home to its own Centre for Ageing studies, led by Dr Tim Windsor.

“As older people have become more vocal and their expectations have risen, the evolution of the sector is being driven less and less by government and more and more by the relationship between service providers, consumers and technology experts,” adds Dr Barnett.

“In the past, formal care services, and the care and support of significant others, constituted the partnership providing support for older people.

“It is now evident that technology is becoming the third partner. The challenge is to ensure that this new trinity works in harmony, as a smoothly functioning team.”

The ACIITC’s Technology Roadmap for Aged Care in Australia report said the aged care sector must take a proactive approach to the way in which technology plays a role in its services and provide leadership on a range of issues associated with delivering care in an increasingly technology-driven world.

The Technology Roadmap is designed to assist them in this.

It acknowledges that aged care is facing three complex and intersecting issues:

  1. Population ageing that has never been experienced to the same level
  2. The rapid development of new technologies
  3. Reform in the aged care sector that fundamentally changes the way in which older Australians will be supported.

“These three meta-influences bring both challenges and opportunities, and while each is often treated separately, this roadmap highlights their interdependence,” says Dr Barnett.

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