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"This would ensure national
coordination of existing programs
relevant to gerontechnology and link the
medical aspects of ageing to advanced
technologies," the report says.
The agenda, the report states, should
identify three priority areas -- safety and
security, diagnosis and treatment and
assistive technologies -- and ensure sufficient
funding for their research and associated
commercialisation. It must also recognise the
concept of 'ageing-in-place' as the essential
objective of the government strategy.
The academy calls for an audit of current
gerontechnology activities and streams
of funding (for example, the government
adoption of eHealth, the establishment of
a National Broadband Network and the
rollout of specific telehealth subsidies) so
the government can get a real grip on what
is currently available, where it is and how it
should be coordinated.
It also suggests that -- where clusters of
expertise exist -- universities and research
institutes should be encouraged through
joint Australia Research Council/ National
Health and Medical Research Council
support to set up Centres of Excellence in
"The creation of a Cooperative Research
Centre on Smart Technology for Healthy
Longevity would be a significant step to
link research more closely to business,
industry and seniors," the report says.
Also favoured by the academy is
a type of alert system which notifies
Australian business and industry people of
gerontechnology R& D commercialistation
opportunities; the creation of a taskforce
drawn from relevant skills councils to
identify the training and accreditation
needs of a future gerontechnology
workforce operating in the home
environment; and a Productivity
Commission (PC) inquiry the potential
short-to-medium term savings that could
be generated through gerontechnology.
THE FUTURE OF
It is important to note that none of the ATSE's
report recommendations were picked up
by the PC in its final Caring for Older
Australians report, even though the academy
called for a national gerontechnology strategy
in its reform submission.
Given that the federal government is
expected to soon announce a reform package
based on the PC's recommendations, the
formal promotion of gerontechnology in
Australia remains in doubt.
According to A/Prof Soar, Australia
will still move forward on the aged care
technology front, government action on
gerontechnology or not. It's just that the
pace will just be much slower.
He says that, without a national
gerontechnology strategy, smart
technologies for healthy longevity will not
be employed in the "mainstream". Instead
a few passionate individuals will apply
them locally. But, he fears, once that
handful of leaders move on, "the wheels of
those projects will fall off".
Regardless, Prof Tegart remains
hopeful about the future of
gerontechnology in Australia, having
recently joined with a group of fellow
advocates to push the cause forward.
"As it is, there's a whole lot of small
voices crying out for the government to
hear them," Prof Tegart says.
"This new network will hopefully
develop to be a focal point for providing
a voice to government. At the moment
there are about 100 people involved in the
core group who will meet together and
talk about these ideas.
"But we need to make the group
stronger than that. We've got to get
a larger group to get the ear of the
appropriate people in government."
Currently on the hunt for more
people to support this quest, Prof Tegart
invites anyone interested in making a
difference to the lives of older adults to
come forward, share their talents and
thoughts, and help his group get the ear
"It's clear we have to be thinking about
other ways to tackle the opportunity
posed by this demographic change.
"The critical thing is to find the
decision makers in the whole industry-
health, technology, medicine, aged care -
and talk to them and see how we can work
better by coming together." n
Prof Tegart will present on 'The Adoption
of Smart Technology in Australia' at the
upcoming national Information Technology
in Aged Care (ITAC) 2012 conference at
Melbourne Park Function Centre, 19-20 April.
For more details, visit www.itac2012.com.au
A provider's view on the PC report
Jennene Buckley -- CEO of the not-for-profit provider and early telehealth adopter, Feros Care
-- says she was excited about the PC report but believes it "missed the mark, not making any
formal recommendations about how technology can be an absolute enabler [for older people]."
"What was put in there about technology was just a bit of window dressing," she says.
"There was nothing about technology with any substance...That's pretty poor considering
the quality of submissions [about technology] put forward."
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