Moderation: H. Wahl, Heidelberg; A. Hedtke-Becker, Mannheim
Early conceptual and empirical contributions speaking to gero-technology already emerged at the end of the 1980’s for example in the U.S. (e.g. N. Charness), in The Netherlands (e.g., H. Bouma), and in Germany (e.g., H. Mollenkopf). Since this time, a true “research explosion” has taken place in this area internationally covering a diversity of domains such health-related technology, independence and mobility supporting devices, as well as information and communication technology (e.g., Schulz, Wahl, Matthews, de Vito Dabbs, Beach, & Czaja, 2015, The Gerontologist). However, a number of fundamental questions have remained open. In this symposium, we concentrate on three questions: (1) How will latest developments in information and communication technology and robot technology shape future aging? We will have papers by Alexander Seifert and Michael Doh referring to ICT in European countries (based on SHARE data) and by Barbara Klein and Thorsten Kolling et al. addressing the latest in robot technology to treat this topic. (2) Which potential able to drive aging and technology comes from the engineering sector? We will have a paper by Christophe Kunze to treat this topic. (3) Which relations and possibly tensions do exist among gero-technology and gerontology at large? This fundamental issue will be covered in the papers by Harald Künemund, using critical gerontology positions, and by Hans-Werner Wahl and Astrid Hedtke-Becker, addressing the relation between gero-technology and gerontology in the light of the German Society of Gerontology and Geriatrics’s ambitions and future goals.
Modern societies are undergoing a far-reaching process of transformation, mainly characterized by two developments. First, there is a demographic change, which is accompanied by an increasing number of older people of advanced age. Second, there is a change in the form of mediatisation (“Mediatisierung”) of everyday life driven by a high level of technical innovation and diffusion dynamics through information and communication technologies. Technology, like the Internet, can be helpful for maintaining functioning, independence, and maintaining engagement with important life goals. Specifically, the Internet offers many support options for active and independent aging, can be a gateway to the “new digital world” as well as a forum for social exchange. However, considerable portions of the older population face substantial barriers to access such new technologies and thus benefit to a lesser extent from their advantages. The increasing amount of content available only via Internet use may thus lead to a exclusion of older people not able to go online. Against this background, this paper will examine Internet usage of the older adults in Germany and Switzerland based on comparative data from Europe (SHARE) and recently collected regional data from Germany and Switzerland. We focus on four broad questions: (1) How can older adults being online be characterized? (2) Are there country-specific variations? (3) Do older adults perceive the Internet as a resource for coping with everyday life situations in old age? (4) What concepts and strategies may be particularly helpfully to include technical distant and vulnerable groups of older people?
The film “Robot and Frank” is about the friendship between the aging jewel thief Frank who suffers from dementia and a humanoid robot that is programmed to do anything to improve Frank´s wellbeing and health. This scenario is certainly not the near future but unveils possibilities where a robot could be more than useful. Products and technological developments comprise a wide range and different categorization systems have been suggested (TA-Swiss, 2012; Graf et al 2013). Robots for “enhancement” of the body allow overcoming functional loss. Stunning examples can be found in prosthetics such as intelligent, artificial limbs or exoskeletons allowing paralyzed persons to walk. Robots for “psychosocial support” or “therapeutic purposes” (e.g. PARO or telepresence robots) enable new forms of mediated social interaction. Increasing miniaturization, the integration of new materials and the inclusion of other technological fields such as bionics or virtual reality open up new concepts for robotic devices. For example the sensor based technologies of the “smart home” will be supplemented by e.g. robotic shower systems which are able to clean, dry and cream frail elderly, thus maintaining their independence in performing their personal hygiene tasks. However, although robotic devices can contribute to overcome functional loss and support independent living, issues of acceptance, design and usability have to be faced similar to those of assistive technologies. In addition, ethical questions and legal aspects play a crucial role and require a broad social dialogue.
TA-Swiss (Hrsg.): Robotik in Betreuung und Gesundheitsversorgung, Zürich: vdf Hochschulverlag AG, 2013. DOI 10.3218/3521-6
Graf, B.; Heyer, T.; Klein, B.; Wallhoff, F.: Servicerobotik für den demografischen Wandel. Mögliche Einsatzfelder und aktueller Entwicklungsstand. Bundesgesundheitsblatt 2013-56. 1145-1152. DOI 10.1007/s00103-013-1755-9
Socially assistive and emotional robots become increasingly important in future health care scenarios in an aging world. The field, however, still lacks both clear theoretical and methodological underpinnings. The present talk therefore first of all summarizes theoretical and methodological aspects of current research in social assistive and emotional robotics. Secondly, three components peculiar for human-robot interaction i.e., acceptance, effectiveness and stereotyping, will be differentiated. In the empirical part of the talk, results of an acceptance study with important stakeholders (e.g., older adults, health care professionals, general practitioners, psychotherapists) evaluating an emotional robot, i.e., Paro, and a telepresence robot, i.e., Giraff, will be presented. Additionally, data on how human-robot interaction affects stereotyping will be presented. The talk concludes with a future research and societal perspective on how an aging society might be shaped by human-robot-interactions.
There is a strong conviction that new technology can improve the quality of life of older individuals. However, while there have been strong research efforts on technical systems specifically designed for elderly people, people with disabilities or (informal) caregivers, this research has scarcely led to the dissemination and adoption of new technologies in practice. While many research activities are targeting the development next-generation technologies, there is an obvious implementation gap in the utilization of state-of-the art technology for older adults and elderly care. There are many challenges regarding the design of technologies for an aging population. Needs and requirements of end users in these application domain are usually very specific, and well-established (requirements) engineering approaches often fail in this environment. Sometimes, technology development is biased by a focus on disabilities, false age-images, or misassumptions about user needs. Participatory Design and User-Centered Design are common approaches to address these challenges. However, technology usage and acceptance is strongly depending from the social and professional practices in which technologies are embedded, and changes in the practices and context of use by the introduction of a new technology are difficult to anticipate. Therefore, technical research in this domain should emphasize on field studies of technology usage. A promising approach is to use technology probes, simple and flexible technical installations based on off-the-shelf technology, in order to study the appropriation of technologies by users. Possible applications can then be investigated in more detail and refined iteratively in case studies based on technology prototypes.
Assistive technologies have enormous potentials for improving the quality of life and maintaining autonomy in old age, to support prevention, rehabilitation, and care. These technologies may support the elderly directly, their support network, and the health care structures in general. However, there also exist serious worries about ethical issues – privacy and data protection –, fears of a potential displacement of face-to-face contacts, worries about losing self-determination an becoming dependent on technology, or simply reservation towards „old age“ technologies that may signal being „old“. The paper presents results from two surveys in Lower Saxony and argues that to date, technology development has at least partly contributed to these problems of user acceptance, and that the above mentioned potentials may further unfold if problem, process and structural evaluation procedures were more carefully implemented. Gerontologists should be involved in all stages of the development process, as is the case with the user itself.
This mostly conceptually driven presentation strives to address five more meta-like issues: (1) We will provide a general account on the importance and promises of the research area of gero-technology. In this section, we acknowledge a number of important roles of gero-technology such as echoing important societal trends, informing ongoing discussions on successful aging, bringing new liaisons between gerontology and industry, as well as promising health cost reduction. (2) We explore interlinkages between gerontology and gero-technology and ask for ways, in which both of these areas may come to better cross-fertilization. For example, gero-technology and older adults now increasing using technology may require the adjustment of existing aging theories typically not containing technology as an element; vice versa, gerontology may offer conceptual frameworks important for anchoring gero-technology more deeply in aging research. (3) We make an attempt to qualify the existing research quality of gero-technology and address some of the persisting problems (e.g., controlled trials too for rapidly changing technologies). (4) We then turn to a number of possibilities, in which gero-technology may enrich future gerontology. For example, gero-technology may bring innovative interdisciplinary constellations to gerontology and also further young scholar promotion. (5) Finally, we address how aging may look like in the future, if technology will increasingly shape the daily ecologies of older adults. We close by juxtaposing potentials and challenges coming with gero-technology for scientific societies in aging research such as the German Society of Gerontology and Geriatrics.
Diskutantin: S. J. Czaja, Miami/USA