Gerontechnology is a multidisciplinary field that links existing and emerging technologies to the enrichment (e.g., leisure, social engagement) and needs (e.g., safety, health, aid to caregivers) of older individuals. The combination of an aging population and rapid growth in technology has made gerontechnology an important and burgeoning area of study. As gerontechnology is a relatively young field, there are currently only a handful of books on the topic. Gerontechnology: Research, Practice and Principles in the Field of Technology and Aging, edited by Sunkyo Kwon, is a sequel to his 2004 edition. One particularly nice addition to this volume is the emphasis on providing information about gerontechnology-related principles in combination with discussing research and practice issues. In compiling this edition, Kwon indicates that he sought to provide readers with a comprehensive review of the diverse facets of the field of gerontechnology. As such, this book includes 24 chapters, which cover a breadth of issues and technologies that have shaped and continue to mold the field of gerontechnology. Consistent with the multidisciplinary nature of the field and a strength of this volume, the chapters were written by faculty or teams of faculty from multiple disciplines (e.g., psychology, engineering, marketing, mathematics). The collection of chapters will provide a student or novice to this field with an introduction to the history of gerontechnology and to many significant foundational and emerging topics. Such topics include age-related changes in sensory, motor and cognitive abilities that impact technology design, the evolving use of technology in health care, methodologies (e.g., user-centered) for assisting designers in product development, and factors that may influence technology adoption by older adult users. Especially of value throughout multiple chapters in the book are the authors’ accounts of challenges they faced and lessons learned through their work. Numerous authors also provided useful recommendations for conducting future technology development and research in the respective reviewed areas. For example, based on author experiences and the literature, readers will find guidelines pertaining to topics ranging from marketing (Chapter 22) to designing a tele-health system (Chapter 13) and robot (Chapter 19) for older adults to using a virtual reality platform in aging mobility studies (Chapter 6). For individuals familiar with the field of gerontechnology, the editor aptly stated that the reader “will see their expectations met by selectively probing for and perusing the parts that best match their needs” (p. xlv). The book is organized into four sections. The first section includes a diverse set of topics that describe the history of gerontechnology (Chapter 1) as well as perceptual, social, generational and privacy issues associated with the development and use of technology. Although this section provides the reader with some of the basic tenets of technology and aging, it neglects others. For example, Chapter 2 provides detailed coverage of age-related sensory changes and reinforces the importance of developing technology interfaces that can accommodate these changes and reduce barriers to use. However, age-related cognitive (e.g., memory, decision-making), physical (mobility, strength) and health-related (e.g., arthritis, dementia) issues that may also influence technology development are not introduced until later chapters (Chapters 6, 17, and 19). Similarly, the early chapters discussing technologies for enhancing social contacts (Chapter 3) and how to introduce technologies to help older individuals age in place (Chapter 4), may have benefited from being preceded by a more thorough discussion of theories relevant to factors that may influence technology acceptance and adoption among older adults, some of which was found in later chapters (Chapters 5 and 16). The first section of the book also introduces some fresh ideas, such as the “family technologist”, a family member knowledgeable about technology who can install, support and encourage use of technology by older adults to promote continued independence. Although the quality and detail of information presented throughout the chapters in Section 2 varied, this section met its goal of exposing the reader to a large number of different topics, tools and, technologies being explored in the field of gerontechnology. Chapter 7, which focuses on emerging information and communication technology, along with Chapter 8 both emphasize the importance of designing with users. In Chapter 8, the authors (C.S.C. Lim and A.F. Newell) introduce the concept of “user-sensitive inclusive design,” an approach they feel will best account for the dynamic diversity of older adults in design. Chapters 9–12 discuss age-related changes and provide examples of how both low-tech assistive technologies and high-tech electronic and smart technologies can be used to support independence and quality-of-life for aging adults. Chapters 13–16 cover diverse technologies including tele-health, behavioral monitoring systems and emergency transportation systems that can be used to enhance the wellness and safety of aging adults. As few chapters tackled issues related to cost-benefit analyses, reimbursement, or barriers to scaling of technology, especially thought provoking was D.M. Kutzik’s (Chapter 14) description of barriers and personal experience as developer of a behavioral monitoring system that went to market. Section 3 is tied together by topics that broadly relate to the biopsychosocial environment. These chapters do an excellent job capturing the many interrelated factors that must be considered throughout the research, development and marketing of products designed to support aging in place. Chapter 16 provides a brief overview and an evaluation of factors that can impact technology acceptance by older adult users, while Chapter 18 extends the discussion of these issues to individuals with cognitive impairment and their caregivers. In Chapter 17, an overview of emerging technologies that can be used to facilitate health management by older adults is provided. In Chapter 20, the author (N.E. Cutler) uses his experience with a project, which introduced the Internet to older individuals who had little to no personal experience with technology, to discuss successes and lessons learned. The final two chapters of this section provide an opportunity for the reader to become better informed about how a product might be best developed, through discussion of a needs-based development approach (Chapter 21), and marketed (Chapter 22) to the aging population. Section 3 briefly addressed, but could have benefited from additional discussion of cross-cultural issues (Chapter 22) and issues related to how the use of technology could be viewed as a dimension of social inequality (Chapter 16). In the last section of the book, Kwon provides a concise synopsis of some of the important issues discussed by authors throughout the book and concludes his chapter (Chapter 23) with a list of recommendations extracted from the chapters. The recommendations are well-organized into a set of general recommendations and recommendations targeted to designers and developers, researchers and practitioners, and older adult users and caregivers. Although the list of recommendations also includes some notable challenges, additional identification of challenges and controversies that remain to be addressed as the field of gerontechnology moves forward would have been welcomed. The Epilogue (Chapter 24), written by one of the field’s pioneers (J.L. Fozard), provides an insightful summary of his observations of growth in the field of gerontechnology since the 2004 edition, along with take-away messages and a discussion of highlights from earlier chapters. The Epilogue nicely complements the introductory chapter (Chapter 1), which provides a personal historical introduction to the field of gerontechnology as it was also written by another pioneer in the field that coined the term gerontechnology (J.A.M. Graafmans). Given the vastness of the field of gerontechnology, Kwon set out with an ambitious goal of creating a comprehensive review of the field. Although impossible to truly meet this goal, the chapters provide a plethora of examples of how existing and emerging technologies can be applied to improve the quality-of-life of the aging population through primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. The chapters are written by many experts in the field, and the strong reviews of theoretical and empirical findings will help promote a broad foundational knowledge base in gerontechnology. Furthermore, the lessons learned by the authors and recommendations presented throughout the volume will be a valuable resource for both the beginning student and more seasoned researcher. The chapters also represent excellent examples of multidisciplinary collaborations, successfully highlighting for students the importance of an integrated approach. For the neuropsychologists interested in learning more about how technology can enrich the lives of older adults and support aging in place, there are ample cases in point. However, the reader will have to work for these examples as they are spread amongst diverse chapters in the volume. While also a strength, the diversity of the information covered both across and within chapters affected the organization of the volume and accumulation of knowledge, decreasing its suitability for a course textbook. For example, similar topics were often covered in chapters widely separated in the book. Moreover, some key chapters that would be useful in a course textbook, including chapters dedicated to surveying research methodology in aging and ethical issues involved in using technology in the care of the elderly, were missing. Although I would not recommend this book as a stand-alone course textbook, many of the chapters provide foundational knowledge in their respective areas and would be beneficial course readings. Another weakness of the volume is that, with a few exceptions, it shy’s away from discussion and future recommendations for several important issues, including those related to some ethical issues, scaling, cost–benefits of technology, and reimbursement. For example, little attention was given to the importance of improving the evidence base for developed technologies in diverse populations, or to a discussion of ethical issues related to equal access, reduction in human touch, and informed consent. As is evident throughout this volume, the growth in the field of gerontechnology has been tremendous and technology innovations for use in the health care arena must be considered if we are to provide quality care to the growing aging population. This book illustrates what has happened in the last 10–15 years in the field of gerontechnology, and provides glimpses into many exciting future technologies (e.g., social robots, smart environments, wearable technologies) that have the potential to enrich the lives of older adults and promote aging is place. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology – Oxford University Press
Published: Sep 14, 2017
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