Technology is being studied and offered as a way to make life a little easier for those aging in the north.
Technology isn’t just for young people.
It’s being applied in new and creative ways to help area seniors continue to live safely and independently, in part thanks to the Centre for Technology Adoption for Aging in the North (CTAAN) at UNBC.
CTAAN was founded in 2020 in partnership with Northern Health and funded by AGEWELL, Canada’s network of aging and technology.
“The inspiration behind CTAAN is to be that bridge to all these amazing technologies that are being created and connect them to our region to persons who are aging in the community and their care partners. It’s important people are supported as they age well in the north,” Dr. Shannon Freeman, CTAAN’s academic director, said.
Right now, CTAAN is collaborating with Northern Health to provide specialized technology for the BC Housing project in Vanderhoof that features three floors of rental apartments including eight supported units for those suffering from dementia.
The first-of-its-kind project is a partnership between BC Housing, Northern Health, the District of Vanderhoof, Connexus Community Resources and the Centre for Technology Adoption for Aging in the North.
Some of the items available are an indoor hydroponic tower, smart home technologies including sensor pads for in bed and out of bed, in chair and out of chair, open door sensors, including those for the front door and medicine cabinets, virtual exercise equipment and lighting that imitates gradual sun up, bright daylight, and sun down options to ease people into and out of their daytime routine.
“We’re looking at technology that can support older adults where they’re at, supporting them to live the best they can,” Freeman said. “Those include very healthy adults living independently in the community in their own homes all the way across the spectrum to persons who are receiving supports in a long-term healthcare settings and all the way to end of life.”
CTAAN is working with people who are aging and those who are supporting those who are aging, Freeman added.
The hydroponic tower, for example, was inspired by an older adult in care who was tired of the long winter months without being able to garden.
“The question was how can we use technology to help engage in activities that you find meaningful?” Freeman said. “So gardening was important for them so we looked at what’s available and we codesigned a whole project geared around that.”
There were raised bed gardens created for summer gardening and an indoor tower garden for the winter. The project was a success.
An indoor tower garden is currently in a facility in Vanderhoof.
“Working with all the stakeholders and understanding what challenges and needs are out there and what tech is out there we can work with those companies and codevelop projects to try to ensure the technologies can get to where they are needed,” Richard McAloney, director at CTAAN, said. “There’s a lot on the research side of it looking at how to best implement that and make people aware of and educate people on these amazing technologies.”
McAloney said the technology has to be sent to a place where it will be utilized so as to not add to the burden of work for the staff of a facility. It has to be user-friendly for the resident and the hydroponic tower is one example of that.
“There are a variety of options to choose from to best suit the caregiver and the older adult,” Freeman said.