A View of the Future

By Katie Smith Sloan

The future of aged care and supports revolves around two critical themes: person-centered choice and care, on the one hand, and technology on the other. Person-centered is a 180 degree departure from a paternalistic mind-set centered around the notion that “the professionals know best.” No doubt, the professionals–clinicians, administrators, social workers, etc.–know a lot. They are highly trained and singularly focused on their area of study. And, they have real-life practice experience to bear. But they operate in a system that doesn’t encourage them to get to their patients and understand their desires. Do they really know what their patients, residents, or individuals prefer? Do they know what their values and goals are?

Not only will consumers increasingly expect their preferences to be honored, they will demand it. So we, as providers of ageing services, will need to have a different conversation with those we are supporting and caring with (rather than caring for). A person-centered culture and mindset may well lead to individuals to take charge of their health during their younger years, knowing that they have responsibility for guiding their health care in their later years. Ultimately, we will see a higher quality of life for our world’s elders with quality defined by the elders themselves.

And, technology. Given the vast explosion in the number of people, we will increasingly rely on technology as a support and an enabler. With individuals in the center, tools can support them. Whether it’s continued enhancements to Alexa or Amazon Echo, activity reminders and monitoring, medication management or tools and apps we can’t yet imagine, technology can effectively support a demographic boom in a person-centered environment.

Less developed countries without a strong infrastructure for aged care have the unique opportunity to leap-frog over the traditional paternalism of the western world to an exciting future. Adapting a frame that is person-centered with the expectation that technology has a critical and practical role to play will lead to a better old age for our world’s elders.