Two Revolutions Digital and Demographic.

AuthorKornfeld-Matte, Rosa

The progressive digitalization of the world has an unprecedented impact on every sphere of our lives. Over the past 20 years, technology has permeated every aspect of modern society, and the use of digital technology, in particular, is becoming an integral part of our everyday lives. Many services and resources are now accessible only through digital means. Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) will also radically transform our lives, including the concept of care of older persons.

Along with this trend, the world is experiencing a demographic revolution. Every country is seeing growth in the number and proportion of its older population, and it is estimated that by 2050, over 20 per cent of the world's population will be 60 years of age or older. While the increase in the number of older persons will be greatest and most rapid in the developing world, Asia is the region with the largest number of older persons, and Africa is facing the largest proportionate growth.

Older persons are often perceived as a homogeneous group, while in fact, they represent the most heterogeneous of all age groups. Some older persons may be in good health and may be able to live independently or autonomously throughout their lives. Others will become increasingly dependent on assistance in old age for reasons such as illness, impairment or loss of mobility, and may require varying degrees of specific care. Ensuring that all older persons are in a position to lead autonomous lives to the greatest extent possible--irrespective of their physical, mental and other conditions--is an area where new technologies, including assistive devices, built-in environmental applications and robotics, have great potential.

Assistive and robotics technology can be used in three main areas: to help monitor the behaviour and health of older persons; to assist them or the caregiver in their daily tasks; and to provide for social interactions.

Technology can allow machines to perform simple, routine tasks, such as bringing meals and medications to patients. Assistive devices and robotics can compensate for physical weaknesses by enabling older persons to eat, bathe, shop or get out of bed on their own. They can enhance the capacity of older persons to self-manage daily activities, such as shopping or cleaning, without being dependent on caregivers or family members.

Smart living environments, which utilize sensors and other applications to monitor older persons' health and...

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