Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Mar-Apl 2012 Contents we need a platform to provide
collaborative research and propel
people who have research about
"There's a lot at stake right now...
It's inevitable that government
leadership will be needed to better
manage ageing and aged care
IT JUST MAKES
Fellow of the Academy of
Technological Sciences and Engineering
(ATSE), Professor Greg Tegart backs
Lewis's call to government for greater
industry-wide support, saying it makes
good economic sense.
"The number of elderly people is
going to increase and that will create
a potentially interesting and lucrative
international aged care technology
market," Prof Tegart says.
"We would like to see Australians
working to supply that market rather than
just be dependent on it.
"We've got to be smart about
developing new industries and
being competitive in the world.
"Financing an aged care
technology boom is critical...
Make the aged care technology
market thrive, make it successful
and older Australians will benefit
from an economic boom."
Associate Professor Jeffery
Soar, from the University of
Southern Queensland's School of
Information Systems, contends
that the government has no other
alternative but to intervene in the market
because its success is vital to meeting the
challenges posed by the ageing population.
"One problem in Australia is that we
can't rely on the private sector to help us
as there is a market failure -- no one, at
the moment, is making [a lot] money out
of telehealth," A/Prof Soar says.
That being true, he explains,
the responsibility falls back on the
government to fund the sector and
provide researchers, vendors and other
key stakeholders with an incentive to
enter and succeed in the marketplace.
A/Prof Soar says government funding
need not necessarily subsidise the
creation of new gadgets but recommends
more money be provided for research
into how Australian businesses become
internationally competitive; what needs to
be done to encourage the adoption of new
technologies in the marketplace; and how
to, specifically, train older people, their
families and aged care staff to better take
advantage of available technologies.
"Sometimes innovation can lead the
market. For example, countless millions
were invested in Cochlear which created
a market for its product...At the moment,
there is little market demand for [aged
care technologies]. The constraints are
funding and a lack of awareness about
A CALL FOR COORDINATION
Like Lewis, Prof Tegart strongly
advocates for government support
that is holistic in nature and not based
on funding alone. He explains that an
overarching strategy which aims to better
coordinate technology-based research,
development and commercialisation
activities is needed because, at the
moment, the sector is fragmented.
"We have to [admit] that there are real
problems, particularly in the aged care
field where many products are pre-market
but because of issues around design and
compatibility with other systems, the
products aren't being adopted or [reach
the market]," he says.
"This is typical of a lot of research,
basically because there is a lack of
funding required to take technology trials
[and products] forward and researchers
are doing research that is not very well
linked to practice.
"And there are also a lot more [aged
care-related] technologies available than
what we are using now, but there's
no focal coordination point to pull them
There is also a major issue, he believes,
in linking the skills and brainpower from
both the gerontology and technology fields.
"The medical profession is a very
heterogeneous community which works
in silos a lot. Doctors like to keep to
themselves; specialists, nurses and para-
professionals are all minding their patches;
and hospital administrators have vested
interests in keeping hospitals going...
"So what's needed is greater cooperation
and coordination which will bring
researchers and practitioners together, in
a better way, to ensure they are involved in
research at an early stage and shape it from
the point of view of the user."
TWO WORLDS UNITE
The call to officially organise and lead
those involved in the 'smart technology for
healthy ageing' space into an era of greater
interdisciplinary communication, productivity,
efficiency and success is not a new one.
It already bears an official name,
'gerontechnology'; has a massive following
throughout Europe, the United States and
Asia; and even has its own international
peak body, the International Society for
The term gerontechnology denotes the
fusion of the 'gerontology' and 'technology'
fields and includes indentified areas of
opportunity caught in the crossover,
like security and safety (age-friendly
homes, falls prevention technologies,
communication and social interaction
tools); diagnosis and treatment (telehealth,
nanomedicine) and assistive technologies
(mobility systems, biorobotics, brain/
machine interaction gadgets).
The landmark report authored by
Prof Tegart and published by ATSE in
2010, Smart Technology for Healthy
Longevity, explains why and how Australia
must urgently follow the rest of the world
and promote gerontechnology within
education, research, industry and business.
According to the report,
gerontechnology is the actual "means to
coordinate the research, demonstration,
development and commercialisation
activities, and the wide-scale deployment
of smart technologies that enable and
encourage older people to age-in-place".
Its promotion will help bridge the
gap between industry research and
practice; encourage aged care technology
companies to innovate and expand; reap
the potential of current technologies
already on the market; and make better
use of other available resources.
Nine key recommendations for
government are listed in the report. First,
it declares that two federal government
departments -- the Department of Health
and Ageing (DOHA) and Innovation,
Industry, Science and Research (DIISR)
-- work together to develop a National
Research and Development Agenda on
'Technology and Ageing'.
Prof Greg Tegart
AAA | MARCH -- APRIL 2012 | 43
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