Both assistive technology and modifications to one’s private home can connect seniors to the digital world, improve their intellect and knowledge base and enable to perform daily life tasks, a computer science expert and a gerontologist said on a panel at an annual conference on aging.
Felice Eckhouse, a gerontologist, occupational therapist, aging in place specialist certified by the National Association of Home Builders and founder/president of ElderSpace, Inc., a company started to assess and improve home environments to empower seniors to safely age in place in Chicago, and Dr. Gene Loeb-Aronin, founder/director of the Center for Technology and Cognitive Health of Older Persons in west suburban Wheaton, Ill. and the Center for Community Informatics in north suburban Wheeling, Ill., made their observations during their poster panel presentation titled “Are We Ready to Age in Place?” at the Aging in America conference by the American Society on Aging (ASA).
The presentation was also alternately called “Connecting Elders With Social Computer Networking via Intergenerational Community-Based Programs.”
“We invent terms because they sound pretty [such as] ‘aging in place,’” Loeb-Aronin said. “The problem is not re-defined. [There are different] pieces of the puzzle. Another problem [has to do with] doing enough [to promote successful aging in place and quality senior long-term care]. You look around. How many people are aging?
“Personally, it does not matter [which] neighborhood [seniors live in, how they obtain health care and what government services they participate in]. People are [not] writing about this but we don’t know how to implement [the technical resources needed to] to support home care.
Eckhouse said there are varying perspectives on age and this will color how prepared the industry and government are for the rise in the number of seniors.
“What [is life going to be like at age] 50, 60 and 70?” she said. “We’re in [the] middle [of a senior care revolution and transformation of the aging in place movement]. [Age] 75 [is the] beginning of the old and old-old. There are not that many [members of this age group]. [It depends on how you look at it.] [Either] no one’s old [or] everyone is old.”
Loeb-Aronin explained that both of his centers use volunteers to teach and initiate seniors in urban and suburban communities around the country to use information technology to hone their cognitive skills and become more knowledgeable about the world around them.
“[Our programs are meant to resolve] aging needs and [to promote] brain health,” he said. “[We want to help seniors attach names to] faces and [preserve their] memories.
“Volunteers help seniors [get] connected with people all over the world. [These aging] issues are all over the world. I lived in Australia [for a time]. I followed these organizations. I’ve got a lot of content.”
Editor of the Journal of Community Informatics and reviewer of the Journal of Informing Sciences and Merlot, Loeb-Aronin uses his educational background, research on learning, psychology and aging, instruction and travels to different countries and memberships in global organizations to enhance learning and development, create curriculum and technologies and write journal articles on aging and technology subjects. One of his websites include http://www.seniorslivewell.blogspot.com.
Locally, Loeb-Aronin sits on the planning committee on ASA’s Chicago Roundtable of bimonthly meetings of geriatric professionals at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke’s University Medical Center in Chicago. He is also affiliated with Roosevelt University in its campuses in Chicago and northwest suburban Schaumburg, Ill.
Aside from their poster session on aging in place, Loeb-Aronin participated in a 90-minute workshop at the conference titled “Intergenerational Activities and Community Involvement: A Winning Plan for Quality Senior Living.”
He co-hosted the workshop with Dr. T.J. McCallum, associate professor of psychology of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. Jean Coppola, associate professor at Pace University, Dr. Kristin Bodiford, program director of the initiative Creating Aging-friendly Communities, Dr. Robert Winningham, associate professor and division chair of the Department of Psychology at Western Oregon University, gerontology professor and expert on cognition.