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Around town: 24th Annual John K. Friesen Conference—Harnessing Technology for Aging-in-Place

Whiskey barrels in the Jack Daniels distillery, Lynchburg, Tennessee.On Thursday, May 14, the Segal Centre at the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Vancouver Campus will host the 24th Annual John K. Friesen Conference. The purpose of this event is to explore how technology can help adults in British Columbia to age in place, helping seniors to adapt their homes so they can keep living in them as they get older.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” The concept encourages people to stay in their own homes for as long as they wish, surrounded by everyday familiarities, without being forced into institutional care or other living conditions prematurely simply because of their age. However, for this to become feasible and a reality for the majority, society needs to change to support older adults and their needs without automatically consigning them to the health care system.

We’ve all heard the news that the boomers are aging and that the rising proportion of seniors in the population is set to topple western civilization by draining national resources and overwhelming the health system. Does it have to be this way? Just about everyone has a tale of a relative or neighbour who lives/lived independently well into old age and is/was a regular fixture on the local community scene.

How do we make this the norm for all older adults?

Since 1989, the annual Friesen Conference Series, held jointly with the SFU Gerontology Research Centre and organizations working in senior health and welfare issues, has explored how our society can enable aging in place for a majority of seniors. Issues tackled in previous years include housing, abuse and neglect in institutional care, adapting the built environment and financial preparedness.

This year’s conference delegates are taking a close look at advances in technology that might help us age in place. From self-monitoring e-health apps, to smart homes built to support independent living, to Internet community building and music players for patients with dementia, the two-day conference will expose health professionals and developers alike to ideas that could help keep older adults living freely.

If you’d like to learn more about aging in place and what technology is available, registration for the conference is available by fax or email here, with daily and whole conference rates for students and seniors. There is also a free keynote public lecture on Thursday evening, given by Alex Mihailidis, scientific director at AGE-WELL NCE, who will be presenting his talk “DISRUPTION AHEAD: Transforming Technology for Aging and Healthcare.

And a final word: aging in place isn’t just for older adults. Tackling issues such as accessibility and modifying the built environment benefits the whole age spectrum, making it easier for young families as well as those caring for older relatives and people with different cognitive or mobility needs. Think of aging in place as enabling; it’s an investment in your community, a changed community that one day, sooner or later, you will be grateful for.

24th Annual John K Friesen Conference: Harnessing Technology for Aging-in-Place
May 14–15 at the Segal Centre, SFU Vancouver Campus, 515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC
Preliminary program [pdf]

Resources for further reading (open access)

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