Hey Google: How smart tech could help people age in place

If you’re having trouble organizing your medications or your smartphone just isn’t smart enough to help you answer the door, the Stan Cassidy Center for Rehabilitation might have the answer.

The Fredericton facility provides hands-on learning about smart technology for people over 55 and seniors with caregivers.

The six-week course takes place in the center’s smart home suite, set up like an average apartment, albeit with lots of cool, if somewhat confusing gadgetry.


Marla Calder is an occupational therapist at the Stan Cassidy Center for Rehabilitation. She is the principal investigator of the smart home project for seniors. (Submitted by Marla Calder)

Marla Calder, occupational therapist and co-researcher on the project, said it helps participants learn how various things actually work in the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

“We developed hands-on education modules that we could bring into the community and teach seniors how to use this technology to gain independence,” Calder said. “This is another strategy to hopefully help with social isolation and to [people] to become more comfortable with technology.

smart speakers at the stan cassidy rehabilitation center
A Google Home and Amazon Alexa on display in the smart home suite at the Stan Cassidy Center for Rehabilitation in Fredericton. Participants learn to use these devices to set alarms, turn lights on and off, and lock doors. (Submitted by Marla Calder)

Become familiar with the technology

Emma Croken, the project’s research coordinator and developer of the learning modules, said the weekly classes spend the first hour demonstrating how to use the technology, then there’s time to play and feel more at home. comfortable with the elements.

“They get a chance to learn new things and go home and try them and then come back the following week and ask questions,” Croken said.

Courses cover basic information, such as how to control lights, window blinds, door locks, and security cameras using a smartphone, tablet, or speakers smart devices, such as Amazon’s Echo Dot and Google Home.

From there, the lessons move on to more complex issues, such as how to spot a scam and how to create a strong password.

smart technology to control the kitchen lights
Technical devices for turning on lights, clearly labeled, are used in the Stan Cassidy’s smart home suite. (Submitted by Emma Croken)

By 2038, 31.3% of New Brunswick’s population is expected to be over the age of 65, according to the aging strategy for New Brunswick, but this kind of information is important for people of all ages.

Medication management is crucial to staying independent and aging at home, which is why the Stan Cassidy team is demonstrating the use of smart pill organizers to track when – and what – pills should be taken each day.

“Even just using technology to set reminders for medications is something that can really prevent hospital readmissions or really serious health issues,” Croken said.

She adds that many course participants are enthusiastic and eager to learn how to use the devices they have at home.

“They have the technology at home, lots of them, and they just don’t know where to start. And they’re overwhelmed, and they’re scared,” Croken said. ” When [they] come in and play with our stuff, we can get them out of any bind they find themselves in.

a room at the stan cassidy center
The bedroom in the smart home suite where seniors can interact with devices in a place that mimics the home environment. (Submitted by Emma Croken)

Emily Read, an assistant professor in the faculty of nursing at UNB, said that while some seniors love the technology and are eager to use it, others fear that by choosing something like remote monitoring, they lose contact with a personal support worker.

“It’s not meant to replace home care. They always want people to come see them. They want physical help and companionship,” Read said.

smart home devices at the stan cassidy rehab center
Transparent labels are printed on all devices in the smart home suite for learning purposes. (Submitted by Emma Croken)

Barriers to Access

However, not everyone is able to access the course in Fredericton because they may not have reliable transportation. And the price of gas can also be an obstacle, especially for those traveling from areas outside the city.

There is also a language barrier, as courses are only offered in English at the moment, and the default language of technology is often English. It can be adjusted, but sometimes help is needed, Read said.

Having the sector’s stream technology in the smart home suite is a “huge pro,” Calder said, because many seniors may already have friends and family who own these items.

“If so, they can be encouraged to simply join this ecosystem. And that automatically gives them a support network for that troubleshooting,” Calder said.

“It allows a little more independence and a little more sense of control over this technology. »

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