Researchers have found innovation, specifically, technology can improve elderly lives and other stakeholders’ benefits in the long run. Innovative interventions have been implemented in several sectors, and they will play an even bigger role in the future, especially with social innovation, which seemed to be a force to create social change and social impact. Meanwhile, technology has been seen as an obvious representative of innovation, which has been widely used in the private sector, and yet to be seen as great potential in the public sector as well.
Elderly Services and technology:
Due to the expected growth of elderly people with chronic diseases and the associated strain on formal care services, there is a need for new and innovative solutions for supporting informal caregivers (Steffen Torp et al. 2008). One promising approach is using assistant technology in elderly care, due to the advanced development of information and communication technology (ICT). Although technology has been well understood and developed in a variety of disciplines, there is not as much research talking about the natural place of technology in aging and the elderly. Britt Östlund (2004) has suggested that contemporary research should include studying the problems associated with aging as part of its work. Biologists study the physical changes associated with aging, economists study the role of the elderly in social economics, social psychologists study role changes, etc.
In the beginning:
In the 1990s, the issues of the elderly with technology have been noted in few conferences and later the role of the elderly in the IT society was articulated in a number of policy documents which put the issue on the political agenda and resulted in funding for research and development ((Bangemann, 1994). Researchers argue that the attention to the elderly with technology, on one hand, is because of the growing elderly population and the problems associated with rising as well. On the other hand, is due to the market needs to sell new technology solutions to the elderly and their families. When it comes to technology, the elderly are the most vulnerable group based on our preconception that the elderly is needy and outdated, hence technology is far more than advanced for them. Thus, there are two obvious research perspectives working with the elderly from the technology and non-tech sides.
Researchers from the technology background are driven to apply technical knowledge to solve problems or, in some other way, create new possibilities for people (Britt Östlund, 2004). Generally, they develop the technology first and then study how the elderly interact with the technology, in order to test the efficiency and usability of the technology.
In another non-tech group, the key issues are
- (1) Technology as a tool to solve the elderly’s problems. Dario, Branislav and Damir (2016) conducted a texts analysis that revealed a strong interaction between physical activity, the elderly, and ICT systems. Specifically, technology plays an important role in promoting physical and social activity among elders. It echoes the paper of Regina and Peter (2016) that ICT use was consistently found to affect social support, social connectedness, and social isolation in general positively.
- (2) Macro-level studies on technology acceptance and costs. Rana Mostaghel (2016) discusses how the elders’ acceptance of innovative technology in their everyday lives is a key factor in the success of governments, technology providers, healthcare providers and other major players in the lives of elders. William and others (2009) conducted a randomized controlled trial and found that their 18-month intervention using home environmental interventions (EIs) and assistive technology (AT) devices showed a significant decline for FIM (Functional Independence Measure) and the institutional and certain in-home personnel costs reduced through a systematic approach to providing AT and EIs.
- (3) Ethical issue and humanity. Many researchers pointed out that technology should not replace all human contact and connection. In the early time, Michael and Eric (1985) had already warned that we should balance technology and humanity. Eftychios and others (2020) concluded that the technology should be implemented so that users don’t feel their privacy is violated and retain control without compromising efficiency.
Call for research:
From a micro view, the research and practice on the relationship between innovation and the wellbeing of the elderly would explore the room for innovation in the elderly and their future needs under the conception of success of aging. Meanwhile, it offers a unique glimpse of innovation/technology in the elderly that contributes to the design for the elderly as Britt Östlund (2004) stated that social-science-oriented researchers can make contributions to projects with technical applications. In light of organization and government entities, there are very limited studies on the application of well-grounded and established theories from the fields of innovation and technology management (Kohlbacher & Hang, 2011), so relevant research is a key force in the public organization to be highly innovative and forward-thinking through the lens of elderly services organizations.
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