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Focus more on empowering technologies in aged care sector: academic

It was concern surrounding social isolation and loneliness in his own elderly father that led Associate Professor Don Kerr to look into the ways in which technology can empower people in later life.

Kerr, who sits in the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Faculty of Arts, Business and Law, first looked into the potential for Xbox gaming to bolster older adults’ perceptions of their driving abilities.

But empowering technologies that involve physical or educational training to help people maintain their capabilities, like the Xbox games, aren’t as readily adopted by older adults as supportive technologies that help them with their everyday activities, according to research.

In a recent study Kerr co-authored, a team of researchers found that elderly people lag in realising the benefits of empowering technologies due to the fact their effect isn’t immediately noticeable.

Kerr said some people may think the time to learn new technologies has passed but added: “Given the demographics now, an 80-year old could live for another 15 to 20 years, so you really need to have a positive outlook on life.

“I think that these sorts of empowering technologies can help people feel better about themselves and learn new skills.”

Kerr said he hopes older adults, technology developers and those in the aged care sector engage more with empowering technologies, adding in some cases they may be able to prevent the need for some forms of supportive technologies. “Things like the Wii Fit game is a good example where you can actually improve your fitness levels and possibly reduce the likelihood of a fall,” he said.

Aged Care Insite spoke with Kerr about the differences between the ways senior approach supporting and empowering technologies, and what nursing professionals can take away from the research.

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