Healthcare Industry Insights

Part 1: Building a common language: why we need a periodic table for technology-supported ageing

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No matter where we live, most of us, as individuals, believe in quality of life. We believe in dignity and care. We believe in independence that can be enabled in a variety of ways. Especially when it relates to the process of ageing brought on by global demographic shifts that touch people in such personal and individual ways.

Life stages, functional, cognitive and personal needs can vary widely across a sampling of seniors such that context for support must allow for much diversity.  Take, for example, the 90-year-old running the Boston Marathon, or the 67-year-old with seven chronic conditions relegating them to assistance in simply walking down the hall or climbing stairs. Each has differing requirements and preferences for life on their own terms. Without which they are highly unlikely to adopt or routinely use, any technology developed with them in mind.

So as our societies, companies and industries begin to tackle these phenomena such as ageing in place – defined as an individual moving through their later life course on their own terms, in their own familiar environment – the ability to identify where and when technology can play a role requires varying and often progressive, levels of support to assure comfort, safety, and fulfillment based on individual needs and preferences. To create a successful technology solution requires multiple elements across a vast array of domains, dimensions and roles- creating a framework that may be best summarized as “human need addressed in human ways” that we, at IBM, describe here as a “periodic table of technology-supported ageing.”


Periodic Table of Technology-Suppoerted Ageing

(Right click on the image above to save and view)

Click here to download the “periodic table of technology-supported ageing”.

Drawn from the experience of hundreds of specialists, research, studies and dozens of deployed capabilities, IBM’s ageing-focused leaders have developed a “periodic table” providing a taxonomy and a common global reference framework for all actors aiming to build successful technologies and tech-enabled services for ageing. The table provides a means for testing solution designs that begin with the person; centered on the individual, guided by a set of core tenets that should always be observed. Then, as appropriate, one or more elements drawn from each category, begin to define and describe the potential solution.  Combined, they represent the foundation for human experience across the later life journey and become the basis for human experience design.

In business, we solve for problems of our time that have potential for both revenue and impact. Understanding of a problem that can be turned into opportunity is often grounded in personal experience or expertise. It is the very human center of why any of us work on lofty challenges. We believe this periodic table – aptly describes both the complexity and the essential ingredients for successfully enabling our ageing societies.

Over the next several weeks, we will be publishing a series of blogs that will delve deeper into each of these domains and elements of the table. We welcome comments and ideas to expand this common language and framework such that we all may answer the needs of individuals along the ageing spectrum faster and more effectively, in the coming age of ageing.

IBM Global Leader, Aging and the Longevity Economy, Watson Consumer Health

Nicola Palmarini

Global Manager of Aging & Accessibility Solution, IBM Research

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