HealthXL together with Northern Health hospital network and IBM are hosting a hackathon style weekend in Melbourne 10-12th July. Here are some reasons to join.
In ancient Greek mythology Eos asked Zeus to make her lover Tithonus immortal. Her wish was granted and Tithonus was indeed immortal but she neglected to request eternal youth, so eventually Tithonus's frail body left him unable to move or talk but yet death evaded. To jump to today and something perhaps more realistic to aim for I think "immorbidity" is a great term for what we should aspire to.
This is not a term you will find in the dictionary, rather it is a coined term by Prof. Japp Goudsmit, director of Janssen's very forward thinking Prevention Centre. He defines immorbidity as " aging without difficulty from sickness or disease". This has to be the holy grail of why we would invest time and resources into aging related research, to enable people to live longer pain free. He spoke about extending the period in a person's life where they are unaffected from age related conditions (Alzheimer’s, heart failure etc.) but perhaps in the case of our HealthXL Hackathon on Aging is associated with living better even with ailments.
What do we want from the weekend?
Simple - solutions to real clinical problems. Let’s build technology that makes a meaningful impact on our older adults lives. Over the last few months, the team* involved in organizing and bringing together everyone for this HealthXL Hackathon, has done so with the vision that bringing together enough great minds has to be a great starting point for great solutions. There is a need to develop technology that is user friendly to the older adult in terms of its design and user experience but utilizes the enormous capabilities modern technology offers.
Whilst researching the themes, it was an opportunity for me to really immerse myself in the lives of seniors and try and understand what’s currently working for them and what’s not. A myth I no longer accept is "older adults are technophobes"; speaking to a group of older adults at a recent focus group, one member informed me she was not "ready to be cast aside by younger generations". She enjoys Facebook and using the Internet, but another told me she liked the idea but it wasn't for her, so perhaps we have the concept but not the experience. A way of connecting older adults to their family and community could go a long way of reducing the sensation of isolation that affects some people.
For the last few years we have spent time developing new generation phones, wearables and a plethora of other connected devices... with 99% aimed at the younger tech savvy generation. But this technology of sensors, 3G connectivity and monitors could be put to work to combat social isolation or engage seniors in more physical activity.
Dementia is a subject that touches a sensitive nerve with a lot of people. For me it was my Grandmother who in her later years lived with the condition, she was a lot luckier than most however and lived in very good health until well into her 90's, and was only affected from dementia for perhaps three years before passing away at the ripe old age of 98. When the team of geriatricians at Northern Health proposed this topic as an area for hacking with technology, I agreed wholeheartedly.
What we currently have for the large proportion of devices is either unfit by design or remove a lot of dignity for the person themselves e.g. overly obvious and cumbersome tracking bracelets. Even the word "tracking" rests uneasy so perhaps we could call it accompanying sensors, as no one deserves to wear a tracking device whilst living in the freedom of their home. Name aside, it is an important assistive device that enables people to enjoy more independence without family or carers worrying as to their location. It just requires empathy in design to seamlessly transition into the life of a person.
Another opportunity to put technology to good use would be to create a place for people affected from dementia, carers and family to store memories that would not be raided by the harsh thievery that is dementia. A digitized life story that engages both the person and their support network in memories of years gone by. This could be a place that enables a new care worker to quickly come up to speed with the life, likes and dislikes of a person they are now charged with assisting. Periods of high anxiety can be very distressing for both the person and the carers; research has shown benefits from music therapy or changing the setting/atmosphere. This type of therapy could be immediately available and personalized to each candidate. If the person required transfer to perhaps an acute setting this information can travel with them. Quietly ready to tell the story of the person so healthcare workers are equipped to better care for the individual.
Both social isolation and dementia can go hand in hand with malnutrition.
Seniors can sometimes forget meals or not eat sufficient calories in a day and it is important that technology can seamlessly step in to help out. If a person is in a community meals on wheels catchment area, there is a fantastic opportunity to tap into that network and prepare meals according to how the person is feeling that day e.g. a high calorie loaded small meal for the day the person is not feeling up to eating a larger portion. Equally for a person living with dementia they may not always remember if they have eaten and following a shift change for a carer this information is very important so as to ensure adequate calorie intake.
Why hack with HealthXL?
There are probably loads of really great reasons to go to any Hackathon, getting to develop new code, getting to meet up with friends, a few beers and plenty of opportunities to turn on creative thinking. For hacking aging with HealthXL, we have worked closely with the clinical team in Northern Health to set clinically relevant Challenges, so much so the winning solution will work with the team to build and test a prototype and hopefully form a commercialisable solution. We have assembled a fantastic team of mentors and a global network of judges.
But for me one of the biggest reasons is every day, every hour and minute we all get older, and so there perhaps can be no bigger motivational reason to solve these challenges than one day we might need them ourselves.
I really cannot wait to arrive and kick start the weekends hacking!
*We are very thankful to our hackathon partners: IBM, Northern Health, Carlton Connect Initiative, EY, Startup HealthTech, Braintree_PayPal, Azul7, BioMelbourne Network, Aging 2.0 and many other organisations and individuals!
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