Forever Young

What will the future of ageing look like?

The worldwide demographic shift towards an ageing population is driving innovative thinking around economic, social and political challenges that are bound to come along with such unprecedented longevity, giving a sense of urgency for the need to transform our communities for ageing.

A multitude of global experts, organisations and governments are now reimagining ageing to enable older people to live active and engaged lives. At the forefront of innovations are technology solutions for aged care challenges such as dementia and social isolation. One such project is a three-year study on Ageing and Avatars led by researchers from The University of Melbourne’s Microsoft Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces. The project explores how technology can enhance social connection and belonging in the ageing population through the use of virtual reality. Researchers will investigate how avatars can be used between older people who are unable to meet together face-to-face. The study includes 23 participants over the age of 70, who have been assigned their own virtual reality avatars, designed to allow interaction in a virtual environment, to enhance meaningful social connections. The project builds on previous research including the Growing Old and Staying Connected project that examines the role of technology in improving older people’s experience of social isolation.

A pioneering approach to rising numbers in dementia sufferers has been sought through design solutions and strategies. In the USA, an assisted living facility in Ohio, Lantern of Chagrin Valley, has designed a trio of properties to be reminiscent of a small town in the 1930s and 40s as part of a program called, ‘Svayus’. The thinking behind the nostalgic layout is to take patients back to their earlier memories with evidence suggesting that dementia patients usually retain their memories from the time they were 21 years old and younger. CEO Jean Makesh told The News-Herald that as “people begin to revert back to their childhood, Svayus serves as something of a time capsule”.

With a multitude of infrastructure and service delivery requirements to consider, such as where older people live and how they’ll get around, as well as considerations around labour supply and economic output, tertiary institutions are also looking at educational solutions to prepare for how society plans for the requirements of ageing populations. There are now several higher education courses challenging the basis of our current service delivery to older people while focussing on enhancing skills, training and development in areas that impact ageing in society. The University of Melbourne is a progressive thinker in this field. Its Ageing in Society 100% online graduate courses are prepared to tackle tomorrow’s complex longevity challenges and enable older people to maintain a meaningful quality of life.

While we endeavour to meet the needs of an ageing global landscape, we’re already seeing that innovation and big thinking will be key in driving change around socio-cultural, lifestyle and environmental factors to enable successful ageing.

To learn more about the University of Melbourne’s Ageing in Society suite of online courses, download a course guide today.

[Source: Serpil Senelmis, The University of Melbourne]