The University of Wisconsin Active Aging Research Center received a five-year, $3.9 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to develop technology that will expand their Elder Tree platform to Wisconsin’s most at-risk seniors.
The Elder Tree platform was founded in 2011 and uses technology to provide assistance and improve the quality of life for elderly Wisconsin residents or those who face multiple chronic conditions, according to the AARC website.
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According to Dhavan Shah, who is the scientific director at the UW Center for Health Enhancement System, the new grant will be used to help demographics who benefitted from the program, such as the elderly or those who suffer from co-morbid chronic conditions.
“This was done by giving them resources like driving assistance, safe route planning, how to get things delivered to their homes, how to avoid falls in their homes or — more generally — how to address loneliness by connecting with people and helping them feel less isolated,” Shah said.
Using electronics such as Chromebooks and tablets is a barrier for people with multiple chronic conditions, Shah added.
Some individuals with certain conditions such as visual impairments or hearing issues need voice-based technology, like smart speakers and smart displays. According to CHESS’s website, these technologies will continue to assist CHESS’s efforts to improve elders’ overall quality of life.
Shah said the $3.9 million grant will allow them to implement new technologies.
“The latest grant moves that same system we’ve already shown to be effective into a format, in this case smart speakers and smart displays, to help that same group cope with aging,” Shah said.
The grant comes on the brink of an explosion in aging populations in rural, northern counties according to the Wisconsin Dept. of Health Services. The population of people over 65 will grow by over 70 percent by 2040.
According to the UW School of Journalism and Mass Communication, CHESS’s ARCC will use smart technology to respond to the demographic shift.
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According to Shah, the newly awarded grant will help cater to more demographics of people.
“The goal is to let people age in place in their homes, rather than having to move to care facilities and be isolated from family and friends,” Shah said.