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Innovation key to empowering elderly

A telescopic robotic arm, street-level social networking to counter loneliness, an app promoting better balance and co-working spaces for entrepreneurial older people – these are some of the solutions being presented tonight at the inaugural $20,000 Senior Living Innovation Challenge.

First published 27 February 2018

An initiative of QUT’s Institute for Future Environments’ Infrastructure for Sustainable Communities theme, Senior Living Innovation is a partnership with industry organisations Bolton Clark, Aveo, BallyCara and IRT Group.  The aim of the challenge is to uncover innovative products and services to help Australian seniors live fulfilling, vibrant lives.

“Since the challenge was launched last year we have been extremely impressed with the entries that have flooded in, most of which have demonstrated critical new thinking in housing, digital and social media, robotics and support services,” said Professor Laurie Buys, a QUT researcher from the Institute for Future Environments.

“In the end we have narrowed them down to six outstanding finalists who will pitch their ideas tonight. I think the judges will have a tough time just picking one winner.

“The number of Australians aged 65 and over is set to more than double by 2057 but the future of senior living is already with us. It includes virtual reality, a new approach to in-home services, multi-generational communal living and other innovative accommodation models.

“Australians have one of the longest life expectancies in the world and Baby Boomers are driving a radical re-think of our attitude towards ageing. While society and governments have often viewed it as a problem to manage, Baby Boomers expect to remain active and to play a valuable part within their community.

“Senior Living Innovation is an Australian-first research initiative that challenges attitudes towards ageing and reconceptualises the experience of ageing.

“Our Senior Living Innovation Challenge finalists have all responded to that in the most exciting ways.”

The six finalists are:  

Marita Cheng: Jevaroo

A telepresence robotic arm on a movable platform, Jevaroo empowers seniors and saves carers’ travel time and costs. It can be controlled by an elderly person in the same room over Bluetooth or by a carer in another location via Wi-Fi in order to do chores around the home.

Matiu Bush: One Good Street

One Good Street is an online social networking site for individual streets which aims to provide the opportunity for neighbours to offer assistance, knowledge and skills to older citizens and their carers through a supported platform which includes positive aging activities and education.

Meg Lowry: The Balance Yourself book and Clock Yourself app

One in three people aged 65+ will fall at least once a year. Rather than just rehabilitating people after they fall and fracture, Brisbane physiotherapist Meg Lowry has developed the Balance Yourself step-by-step guidebook to better balance. Her low-tech Clock Yourself app presents a series of brain games performed with the body and designed to prevent falls.

Christoph Niesel: The Next Stage: Rethinking entrepreneurial spaces for older adults

Shifts in traditional employment and retirement have made it increasingly important to ensure older adults have the freedom and control to continue working in whatever domains they choose. This idea seeks to bring like-minded persons together where they can seek tutelage, create business opportunities and remain current with the changing, often digital dynamic of modern employment.

Pearl James: An Inclusive Community

The ‘Inclusive Community’ is a reinvention of the community centre and focuses on creating shared community spaces to foster intergenerational interaction and counter the negative effects of elderly age-segregation. It’s a model that aging communities could incorporate into their built environments to generate a more socially inclusive and age-friendly future.

Robin Drogemuller: Disaggregating senior care provision through community integration

On Google Earth many aged care developments look like islands in a sea of suburbia. This project aims to provide improved physical facilities, embedded in the community, to which current aged care services could be provided incrementally and economically. The concept champions the gradual adaption of a suburb to use slightly increased densities to improve living options for all in that community.

The Senior Living Challenge will take place from 5.30pm tonight (Tuesday 27 February) at QUT’s Gardens Point campus. The event is proudly supported by the QUT Foundry and QUT Bluebox.

Visit the Senior Living Innovation website for more information.