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SuperAgeing review

The SuperAgeing event departed a little from normal SuperMondays events.  It was much more about the impact that digital technology was having and could have with social groups in society who are, for one reason or another, not able to participate in a digital society.  We had a range of speakers who explored various aspects of computing for an older age group.

Gregor Rae, BusinessLab and ActiveAge

First up was Gregor Rae who is a co-founder of BusinessLab and a strategist in ICT and corporate strategy, marketing and communications.  Gregor has led a research programme into the ‘Competitive Advantage of Ageing’ and the role of ICT in extending the economic and social vitality of an older population.  His presentation discussed the ActiveAge programme which is a research project looking at the market opportunities of an ageing population.

Caroline Findlay, Newcastle Science City

Caroline Findlay followed Gregor to give an overview of Newcastle Science City and how it can help with developing products and services.  Newcastle Science City is heavily involved in ActiveAge which is a collaborative action research programme that is exploring the opportunities that lie within new markets being created by the ageing demographic and how ICT innovation can help to meet the changing social, physical and economic needs of an ageing society.

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Andy Hudson, Broadband Computer Company

Andy Hudson practically needs no introduction. He is, amongst other things, the founder and CEO of the Broadband Computer Company which has developed the ‘alex‘ computer system specially designed with the older computer user in mind.  Andy gave a very amusing, challenging, and poignant talk on how we, the digital community, have largely excluded the vast majority of the older population from using digital technology and, specifically, computers.  Actually, he seemed to mostly blame Microsoft!  But it was revealing that we have built up a language and mystique around computers, the internet, and even mobile phones that is exclusive.  If you’re not part of the club, you just won’t understand the MB, RAM, baud, bps, GPRS, 3G, ADSL and other terms we happily throw around.  Andy has also brought some demonstration machines running Alex to show the simplicity of the system.  Most telling, for me, was some of the letters that he read out from happy customers who had finally found a way of interacting with their siblings over long distances.  Or email to the rest of us!  A great presentation which is included here.

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Dr Paul Watson, Newcastle University

Dr Paul Watson, from Newcastle University, is the Professor of Computer Science, Director of the Informatics Research Institute, and Director of the North East Regional e-Science Centre. He also directs the UKRC Digital Economy Hub on “Inclusion through the Digital Economy”. Paul did an engaging presentation on the work that SiDE project are doing which can be seen below.  It focussed in on the technology behind the ‘active’ kitchen and how they are collecting instrumentation (data) on activities that take place in normal home settings, so that algorithms can be developed to provide automatic assistance from pervasive computers in the home to people with onset dementia and similar issues.

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Dr Sanjeet Pakrasi, Connect for Care

Dr Sanjeet Pakrasi finalised the line up on the evening by showing how the application of some very standard internet technologies can actually transform the lives of elderly people, particularly those in various stages of dementia.  It was heart-warming to hear on the video linked below about how simple two-way video conferencing, when packed into an easy-to-use system, can reconnect different generations within families and help maintain and build social bonds and inclusiveness.  Sanjeet was extremely passionate about how the technology has helped and, for me, it was great to see how actual people can benefit from the tech stuff that we play with every day!

You can watch a video describing Dr Pakrasi’s work here: http://www.connectforcare.com/video.html

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