Community InnoVHAtion Lab explores technology to better age in place
What comes to mind for you when you think about innovative technology? What kinds of tools are being used, and by who? If you pictured people, were they children or teens, young adults or older adults?
If an older adult using a new technology wasn’t your first thought, you’re not alone. Many new technologies, even those designed for older adults, do not take into consideration the needs of that population in the design process. Far too often, this results in technology that misses the mark on providing benefits to families and instead are cumbersome, inconvenient and sometimes frustrating to use.
A new initiative, the Community InnoVHAtion Lab, seeks to change this narrative by including clients, families and caregivers in the design and testing phases of ‘Age Tech’; technologies designed for older adults. The goal is to incorporate the lived experiences of older adults and caregivers to create a library of meaningful solutions for today and tomorrow’s challenges. The program bridges a gap between tech startups and end users by enabling testing in real world situations and real people’s homes. Data is then shared with the tech organizations so they can better incorporate the needs and wants of older adults into their products before they hit the market.
“As a leading home care organization serving many of Ontario’s most densely populated and diverse regions, VHA Home HealthCare (VHA) is well-positioned to play an important role in the Age Tech space. We’re thrilled to be able to share our research, quality and innovation expertise in the home and community care sector with our partners as we collectively work towards building a better future for caregivers and seniors wishing to age in place in their home and communities,” says Dr. Sandra McKay, Vice President, Research & Innovation at VHA.
InnoVHAtion in Action: How it Works
The Community InnoVHAtion Lab program launched in early 2023, and it is already well underway with a growing network of tech partners and clients, families and community members eager to get involved.
The Community InnoVHAtion Lab Process can be broken down into 4 main steps:
- Recruitment: Participants contact the Innovation Team at email@example.com expressing their interest
- Listening to your story: The Innovation Team will reach out and conduct a needs assessment in order to match you with the best technology available
- Deployment: The Innovation Team will arrange for product set up in your home to use for a select trail period of time
- Review, learn and iterate: The Innovation Team will contact you periodically within the trail period to capture your feedback on the technology
“I wanted to learn more about how technology could help me,” says community lab participant Edward, 75.
“The onboarding process was really easy,” says Edward, adding that he is most excited about testing with technology partner Gerry Connect, an easy-to-use video-calling application designed to increase social engagement and reduce loneliness among older adults.
Edward’s favourite feature? How a call can be activated remotely without Edward needing to answer or make the call, which makes connecting with his loved ones really easy and feels like a drop-in visit to his home.
An important aspect of the program’s overall success is staying on top of Age Tech trends and appropriately matching these growing opportunities with the right clients and families to trial in the community.
Since the program’s inception earlier in 2023, VHA’s Research and Innovation team has been busy growing its network of technology partners. As of fall 2023, VHA has five technology partners that are being deployed into the living spaces of Community InnoVHAtion Lab participants:
- CHIRP, A passive health monitoring system that offers activity tracking and 2-way communication without the use of a camera
- 2RACEWITHME, A stationary cycling device to lessen physical and cognitive decline in older adults
- TENERA CARE, A real-time monitoring and tracking system for older adults
- OZERI DIGITAL BABY SCALE, A digital baby/toddler scale used to measure the weight and height of infants
- And as previously mentioned, GERRY CONNECT, An easy-to-use video-calling application designed to increase social engagement and reduce loneliness among older adults
“VHA pledges to each and every member of the Community Innovation Lab that all technology is supported and driven by science, is high quality, safe and secure and should any issue arise, our rapid response will help solve any problems,” says Jordan D’Souza, Head of Innovation.
If you are interested in getting involved as a Community InnoVHAtion Lab participant, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.