Know-how, a bulwark of getting older proper at residence? – Information


Living at home as long as possible is the wish of the vast majority of Quebec’s senior population. Although many questions arise in this context regarding the safety, mobility and socialization of the elderly, the development of technological solutions that promote home care has accelerated in recent years. What if technology is one of the keys to better aging in place?

Several research projects combining aging and technologies are being carried out at the Université de Sherbrooke. In addition to relying on interdisciplinary approaches, teams of researchers give seniors a leadership role, making them participate in their work. An orientation that makes it possible to better identify the problems as a whole and respond in a relevant and concrete way to the needs of users.

This is particularly the case for the projects carried out in the DOMUS laboratory, a smart apartment that aims to offer a certain autonomy to people with disabilities, including the elderly, through the use of technological tools.

Cognitive assistance at home

Indicator lights allow a person wandering at night to return to their room.
Photo: Michel Caron – UdeS

The lab has three main types of connected systems that allow for short-term and long-term remote monitoring as well as cognitive assistance. Sensors and detectors hidden in the laboratory thus accompany the person, for example, for the safe preparation of meals, or to help him return to his bed if he is wandering at night. These devices allow you to interact with him and get information about his behavior.

The data collected is particularly useful for the work of health teams and family caregivers who work with a person with a loss of autonomy, as well as for monitoring the evolution of their health status and even detecting certain diseases.

The systems developed by DOMUS are also directly implemented in organizations, such as homes for the elderly, where their potential is applied daily.

The power of interdisciplinarity and collaboration

From the beginning, users are included in the projects developed by the DOMUS research team.
From the beginning, users are included in the projects developed by the DOMUS research team.
Photo: Michel Caron – UdeS

Based in the Department of Informatics of the Faculty of Sciences, this multidisciplinary laboratory draws on the expertise of researchers in occupational therapy, psychiatry, gerontology, ethics, industrial design and artificial intelligence.

It was co-founded by Professor Sylvain Giroux from the Department of Informatics, and by Professor Hélène Pigot, from the same Department, also trained in Occupational Therapy. Both are also affiliated with the Center for Research on Aging. Interested in augmented reality and intelligent environments, Professor Charles Gouin-Vallerand, from the Department of Information Systems and Quantitative Management Methods at the School of Management, is also part of the team.

For our projects to work and be accepted, the original and transdisciplinary approach that we have adopted since the beginning of the laboratory in 2002 is essential.

Professor Charles Gouin-Vallerand, Department of Information Systems and Quantitative Management Methods, School of Management

Professor Sylvain Giroux also stresses the importance of the contribution of all users to the research work:

From the beginning, both seniors and people with disabilities, as well as the people around them and the employees who gravitate towards them, participate in our research. What we get in the end is really a system that meets the needs, not a system that meets the needs we imagine.

Professor Sylvain Giroux, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Science, researcher at the Center for Research on Aging

Living at home also means leaving home

The issue of mobility is one of the essential elements to take into account if we want to promote home care for the elderly.
The issue of mobility is one of the essential elements to take into account if we want to promote home care for the elderly.
Photo: Michel Caron – UdeS

To better understand the challenges associated with aging at home, the team from the Laboratory of Innovations by and for the Elderly (LIPPA), an initiative of the Center for Research on Aging, also consulted a group of about thirty elderly people from Estrie. It is also through contact with them that the whole issue of mobility and travel needs quickly emerged as an unavoidable issue. The Mobilaînés project was born from the needs expressed during this day of reflection.

Interestingly, people we know have told us that the best way to be able to stay at home is to be able to leave the house.

Professor Dany Baillargeon, Department of Communication, Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences, researcher at the Center for Research on Aging

Elderly people, including the Coutu Line, are essential partners in research projects such as Mobilaînés,
Elderly people, including the Coutu Line, are essential partners in research projects such as Mobilaînés,
Photo: Michel Caron – UdeS

Dany Baillargeon and Professor Véronique Provencher, from the School of Rehabilitation of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, researchers at the Center for Research on Aging, are the two main co-investigators of the Mobilaînés project. They work with a team of researchers in social work, rehabilitation, geomatics, telemedicine and informatics, as well as with partners from the Ville de Sherbrooke and various associations representing the elderly.

In order to offer a tool more suited to the reality of these people, the research team works in the “living laboratory” modality, that is, placing the elderly, future users of Mobilaînés, at the center of development.

Towards more suitable and pleasant trips

Aimed at all multimedia platforms – phones, tablets, computers – and accessible by telephone service, Mobilaînés aims to create a single, easy-to-use window, combining all travel options in Sherbrooke, taking into account the needs and preferences of seniors. Although there are several applications of this type currently, few are adapted to the profiles of the elderly.

“The tool will take into account, for example, the need for safety and the flow of traffic. Slopes… if there are sidewalks, benches, toilets nearby”, explains professor and project co-researcher Bessam Abdulrazak, who is working with his team at AMI Lab to develop multi-criteria algorithms to determine the most suitable for this audience.

The different needs of seniors were taken into account in the development of Mobilaînés, for example, having benches and places to rest during travel.
The different needs of seniors were taken into account in the development of Mobilaînés, for example, having benches and places to rest during travel.
Photo: Michel Caron – UdeS

The team was also interested in developing a user-friendly tool that could be easy to use and offer options that would make the travel experience more pleasant for seniors of different profiles.

The most important part of this is the digital literacy part. Our goal is to simplify the interface for older people who aren’t comfortable with technology, so it’s easy to use.

Professor Bessam Abdulrazak, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Science, Researcher at the Research Center on Aging

Promote digital literacy and socialization

Although a good number of elderly people are technologically savvy, a significant portion of this population nevertheless lives a form of digital exclusion, as they do not know or do not know how to use IT tools. Whether it’s video conferencing software, emails and text messages, apps for getting around or shopping, various information technologies can play an important role in keeping seniors at home.

This is the goal behind the Sherbrooke Accorderie Service Exchange Network technical support project, in collaboration with the University of Sherbrooke.

In our network, 20% of members are 65 or older, but nearly 50% participate in exchanges. With lockdown in spring 2020, we wanted to offer them personalized IT support so they can stay in touch with their family and friends.

Catherine Larouche, General Manager of L’Accorderie de Sherbrooke

The technical support project led by Sherbrooke's Accorderie Service Exchange Network is helping to bridge the digital divide experienced by some members of the senior population.
The technical support project led by Sherbrooke’s Accorderie Service Exchange Network is helping to bridge the digital divide experienced by some members of the senior population.
Photo: Michel Caron – UdeS

Network members who have computer skills were paired with elderly people to offer them training in the use of certain tools and software. In return, senior members could offer gardening, sewing, etc.

The fact of being able to live with their network, their children, grandchildren, had an impact on mental health and support during a period of confinement at home.

François Racicot-Lanoue, doctoral candidate in gerontology at the Faculty of Letters and Human Sciences

The latter also firmly believes in the potential of exchanging services between members of a community, which is the basis for creating networks such as L’Accorderie, to promote and even collectivize “aging well” at home.

The exchange of services creates a social bond, adds François Racicot-Lanoue. A senior may receive services at home, participate in activities that allow them to socialize more, and pass on their knowledge in return. He’s very rich.

Ultimately, all the research teams working on technologies and better aging at home mentioned above are of the opinion that, in addition to technological and digital advances, the fact of contributing to better aging at home for the elderly, the maintenance of their activities meaningful and the emergence of truly supportive communities remains their most important source of motivation and commitment.

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