The National Science Foundation recently awarded Indiana University with a $500,000 grant earmarked for helping researchers to understand how technologies can assist underserved older adults as they age in place.
“The shifting demographics associated with an aging population require novel solutions to meet the health needs of the growing number of older adults around the world,” said Kay Connelly, an associate professor in the School of Informatics and Computing and one of the grant’s recipients. “Since caring for individuals in assisted-living and long-term care facilities costs nearly twice that of care for their non-institutionalized counterparts, and older adults prefer to stay in their own home, technologies that support aging in place are one way to address these pressing problems.”
Connelly, along with fellow grant recipient and Principal Research Scientist Kelly Caine, the co-directors of the Pervasive Health Information Technology (PHIT) lab, say their research will focus primarily on the groups at the highest risk for extensive care and services, i.e., individuals from rural areas and underprivileged urban areas.
“Of those two subpopulations, rural individuals make up one fifth of the elderly population and are at the highest risk for requiring long-term care services and support,” Caine said in a statement. “Similarly, urban-dwelling older adults in low-socioeconomic-status neighborhoods often experience higher rates of functional loss and poorer overall health outcomes. Thus, there is a lot of room to help both of these groups.”
The project is meant to provide community members, service providers, and governmental agencies with guidance on how to use technology in such a way as to enable those populations to age in place.
After customizing a suite of technologies to the specific needs of the two populations, the researchers will assess how those seniors use and adjust to the technologies, and then determine how that may help them to age in place.
Connelly and Caine received the grant through the NSF’s new Smart Health and Wellbeing program, which gave out 21 awards in its first year to teams from institutions such as MIT, Georgia Tech, and Carnegie-Mellon.
Written by Alyssa Gerace