FOREWARD: By Eric Dishman, General Manager and Global Director of Intel’s Health Research & Innovation Group
In June of 2005 in Dublin, I had the good fortune to speak at an event sponsored by Enterprise Ireland and the IDA to explore the ways in which technology innovations might help improve the costs and quality of healthcare, particularly for the growing population of older people in Ireland and abroad. I thought this would be like the dozens of other conferences I attend around the world each year: participants would show up with PowerPoint, network for the day with a flurry of business cards exchanged, and then disappear again until the next workshop, conference, or “special symposium.”
But this event proved to be quite special. An amazing mix of healthcare professionals, technologists, social scientists, seniors and their families, government officials, and Ireland-based companies both large and small, showed up with a yearning to do more than just talk about solving healthcare problems. The energy and expertise in the room was amazing; the commitment of the participants to collaborate with one another to actually do something was infectious.
The Technology Research for Independent Living Centre…or TRIL Centre for short…was borne out of that excitement, expertise, and collaborative commitment. Our goal is to accelerate research, development, and commercialisation of independent living technologies that help older people to live in their homes of choice, even in the midst of age-related illnesses and injuries that are becoming so commonplace. Bringing together Intel researchers with interdisciplinary researchers from University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and National University of Ireland, Galway, the TRIL Centre is one of the world’s largest R&D collaborations on this important topic, and we hope to make Ireland an international centre of excellence for this work.
As we focus first on three areas that cause enormous emotional and economic devastation for families and their communities-falls, social isolation, and cognitive decline-we will be inventing and testing new information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the homes of older people that can help with prevention, early detection, self care in the home, and caregiver support. How can we prevent falls before they happen? Is it possible to reduce the social isolation and depression of older people who may live alone, often in far-away rural areas? Can ICTs be designed to help someone with Alzheimer’s to manage their daily activities at home?
These and many more questions will guide our collaboration as we seek to bring international attention to-and investment in-independent living technologies. Every individual and every industry must pay attention to these global demographic changes. The numbers are staggering: The numbers are staggering there were 600 million seniors in 2000; there will be 1.2 billion seniors by 2025 and more than 2 billion by 2050. As nations throughout the world already struggle to provide affordable, quality healthcare to their citizens, it is clear that we will need a new model of care as the number of seniors double and then double again in less than 50 years.
I am excited and hopeful that the TRIL Centre will become not only an advocate for paying attention to the age wave but also part of the solution through technology innovation. Given the excitement in that room back in 2005, I would expect nothing less from my new-found friends and colleagues throughout Ireland.