Lower Saxony Research Network Design of Environments for Ageing

Deutsche Fassung

Technical Innovations

Against this background, technical innovations are able to attain outstanding importance in various aspects. Directly and indirectly, they can help to improve quality of life, preserve autonomy as well as support prevention and rehabilitation:

  • For many people, ageing is connected with physical and psychic functional losses. Technical aid can, e.g., alleviate mobility and orientation and compensate perception and remembrance deficits to some extent at least and thus contribute to the preservation of autonomous lifestyle and social participation and possibly prevent or at least decelerate transition into retirement home. Basically, technical aid in this area - mainly in sensomotor area, e.g. walkers or hearing aids - already belongs to everyday life. New technical innovations like wireless communication or voice recognition and the clearly increased possibilities in data storage and analysis allow the idea of whole new "intelligent" supportive systems, which can directly support cognition or bring relief in case of double challenges.

  • With transition into retirement, the lifeworld experience already is brought to the fore of personal recognition because of the omission of working world relations. This notably applies to old age, where outside activities are only rarely possible or not possible at all. The objective conditions of the residence and the residential environment become more and more important with age. It can be assumed that old people with feeble health, who live in badly appointed homes, are in increased need of assistance and care from others and thus are limited in their independence. An age-based home, among other things adjusted to particular vitiations through technical aid, allows for longer stay in familiar surroundings and denotes lesser need of help as well as alleviates and supports necessary assistance in many ways if applicable. In particular, this applies in case of chronic illnesses and disabilities, but - if technical aid can be easily upgraded or installed - also in case of short-term or changing impairments.

  • Also becoming more important with advancing age are social relationships, e.g. in case of singlehood, limited mobility and also in case of tentativeness or illnesses. Here, technical aid can  simplify communication and, e.g., provide a feeling of safety, by being reachable in doubt, being able to contact someone or getting informed automatically if necessary. Thus, not only do social relationships contribute to social participation and quality of life of elderly people, but also to their relatives.

  • It is required for successful use of new assisting technologies to find accordingly suited forms of provision and accordingly ways of life and therefor elaborate and provide appropriate, stable and economically acceptable software architectures and infrastructures for communication and information. This concerns technical platforms and infrastructures in home environment as well as IT architectures for new forms of provision. Part of such communication and information infrastructures are broadly used sensor systems for acquisition and later analysis of data being relevant for provision like vital signs and motion patterns. These aspects - new ways of life and forms of provision, technical platforms and infrastructurs in home environment and IT architectures for new forms of provision - have to be regarded in conjunction.

  • Preservation of individual health is more and more determinant for quality of life with advancing age. At older age, often chronic illnesses and illnesses which require treatment arise (multimorbidity), whose impacts can be tightened by age-related functional losses like reduced mobility, reduced eyesight and hearing and deterioration of cognition in general. Monitoring of ethiopathology together with individual abilities ought to optimize medical treatment and to reach a preferably long retention of physical and psychic health. Technologies are targeted on early diagnosis of older people in particular, respectively on allowing new forms of provision and supervision of chronically ill people.

  • One substantial problem for people at older age are falls. They are one of the most common cause for impairments or the loss of independence. 30% of the people older than 65 years fall at least once a year, this number raises to 80% regarding the over 80 years old. Consequences often are serious: In 20% of the cases an injury, mostly a fracture (56%), occurs. Half of the fall incidents lead to a permanent reduction of mobility. Conventional measures for assessment of fall risks and interventions for fall prevention are only able to avoid one out of six incidents. New assisting technologies, e.g. for monitoring of fall predictive parameters and for early detection of falls in the residence, can help to prevent falls or extenuate the consequences.