Harnessing the power of technology, now and post COVID-19

Mar 31, 2021 | Blog, Knowledge Exchange

April 2021 blog post written by Alex Mihailidis, PhD, PEng.

All of us are wondering what the world will look like post pandemic. It’s safe to predict that technology will play a much larger role in the lives of older adults and caregivers.

COVID-19 has highlighted the need for technology to support seniors and their caregivers. Technology is helping older adults stay connected with loved ones in these difficult times. Many older adults are using it for online activities that help to maintain cognitive and physical abilities while sheltering in place.

We are also seeing an increase in the use of telehealth—a trend that is expected to continue. It’s not an exaggeration to say that technology is going to help transform the care older Canadians receive across all settings—hospital, community, home and long-term care, where the pandemic has had such devastating consequences.

Are older adults receptive to technology? The answer is yes. A poll conducted in July 2020 by Environics Research for AGE-WELL shows that COVID-19 has significantly increased the use of many technologies among older Canadians. Over 6 in 10 Canadians aged 65+ agree that technological advancements can help to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on daily life. The majority agree that technological advancements can help them maintain relationships with family and friends, reduce social isolation, pursue hobbies, manage health, maintain mental health—and stay safe, independent and active as they age.

Many cutting-edge technologies that benefit older adults are in development and some are on the market. At AGE-WELL, Canada’s technology and aging network, research teams and startups have over 100 technology-based solutions in the pipeline or already making a difference in people’s lives. These include smart-home systems to support aging-in-place, mobile health apps and platforms designed to enhance safety and quality of life for residents in long-term care.

But the timeline for implementing such solutions has moved up dramatically because of COVID. People want these technologies now. Even after the pandemic passes, these innovations will be needed to enable people to live longer in their own homes—and to ease pressures on the health care system.

Here are some ways in which we can accelerate the delivery timeline:

  • Increase investment in Canada’s AgeTech startups so that products get into people’s hands sooner. This will also generate jobs and create wealth.
  • Improve access to broadband, which is often a challenge in rural and Indigenous communities. It should be a basic right. In long-term care and seniors’ residences, Wi-Fi must be solid.
  • Support clinicians to integrate apps and other new technology into their clinical practices.

As the Canadian organization driving forward Canada’s AgeTech sector, AGE-WELL will continue to work with key partners in industry, government and community groups to guide and increase the impact of these innovations. Seniors and caregivers, whose involvement is essential, will be with us at every step of the way—to ensure that emerging technologies are practical and will be adopted, now and post pandemic.

About the Author

Dr. Alex Mihailidis is Scientific Director and CEO of AGE-WELL, which is funded through the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence program. He is a professor at the University of Toronto (U of T) and holder of the Barbara G. Stymiest Research Chair in Rehabilitation Technology at the U of T and Toronto Rehab Institute.